Artist Jay Varma’s Representation of Women in His Paintings – Art-and-culture News, Firstpost
In a conversation with Firstpost, artist Jay Varma, fifth-generation descendant of Raja Ravi Varma, talks about the depiction of women in his paintings, how the art industry has been affected by the pandemic and more .
Jay Varma is the fifth generation descendant of Raja Ravi Varma. In a recently held exhibition, Jay Varma highlights five women from the Ramayana and Mahabharata. He feels that his thoughts are random. They are insightful, enigmatic and even close to genius at times. One must learn to harness these thoughts, only a very small percentage of them are painted on the aforementioned blank canvas. It takes time to separate the wheat from the chaff.
During the India Art Festival held recently, Jay Varma highlighted five women from Ramayana and Mahabharata in his painting. It is popularly believed that the recitation of the names of the five virgins—panchakanyas– would destroy the worst of human sins. But matters of faith aside, who is the kanyas are in themselves a fascinating question, and their personal stories even more remarkable. The kanyas are recognized to include Ahalya, Draupadi, Tara and Mandodari. But the fifth name varies. Some say it is Tara, wife of Brishaspati (besides the other Tara, wife of Vali); others regard him as Kunti, mother of the Pandavas; and still others revere Sita as the fifth kanya. Excerpts from the interview:
Tell us in detail about the representation of women in painting?
From a very young age, my great-grandmother would tell me stories about characters from Indian mythology and all the incredible adventures they had. In great detail, I heard him weave the epics into gripping chapters that became a rich tapestry filled with not only people and places, but also magical creatures, demigods, and gods. I loved those hours spent listening to him and was so captivated that I began to believe that I was actually living in those stories. Yudishtra’s spotless character such as his feet never touched the ground, Arjuna’s superhuman prowess on the battlefield, Bhima’s strength and bravery, Nakula Sahadeva’s legendary equestrian skills, all became aspects that I secretly thought I had. It was storytelling at its best, or so I thought. She also had an amazing collection of books that I would later read with great enthusiasm and was someone I looked to for advice and often just to hang out with. I knew she was special but how special, I wouldn’t know until later. It was only later that I learned that she was the eldest granddaughter of Raja Ravi Varma. So while these five paintings of women from Indian mythology are a tribute to her, it is by far a much greater tribute to her. The beginnings of an idea to portray important women in Indian mythology came primarily with her in mind, and then my grandmother and my mother, who were all strong women in their own right.
So the women in my paintings represent these capable women and also the woman of today, the working woman, the housewife, the caretaker, the facilitator and the provider. Just like the women of fables, women today are confronted with situations that are sometimes uplifting, sometimes tragic, sometimes magical, sometimes frightening and sometimes joyful. The paintings represent the Panchakanyas, whose names, when chanted, drive away sin. They were not chaste and in some cases had more than one husband, but were virtuous and morally pure to deserve this status. My paintings contain lots of symbols and metaphors, contexts and emotions that will hopefully inspire and make you think. The idea is to kick-start a journey that will lead to looking at the paintings with a new perspective each time. The other aspect is color. I used rich colors to add drama and more importantly emotion. I believe colors can trigger all kinds of emotions and to that extent I used them to tell the story.
What is the thought behind your artistic work?
A blank canvas sometimes seems difficult, if only to ask to be filled with a masterful composition and bathed in light. Thoughts are random. Thoughts are insightful, enigmatic and even close to genius at times. You have to learn to harness those thoughts and for me only a very small percentage of those are painted on the aforementioned blank canvas. It takes time to separate the wheat from the chaff. A painting, in my opinion, consists of two parts. The first part is to mentally conceive an idea and then compose it on paper. The second is to actually run it. The first part is the hardest. The second can be difficult too, but it is a skill that can be learned. It’s undoubtedly very demanding, especially if you want your skill level to be at a certain level, but it’s learnable. You must be prepared to put in hours and hard work.
Creating or conceiving an idea, however, is not entirely learnable. Some ideas are better than others and very few are masterful. This is what separates the genius from the ordinary. Typically, I have to consider several aspects and add or remove different elements. For example, in the Panchakanyas, I had to think about what constituted a series that linked them, the colors definitely, the poses, what should be highlighted and what should be relegated to secondary and tertiary.
How has the pandemic affected the art trade? and how does it spread after the pandemic?
My expertise lies in the realization of a painting, not so much in its commercial aspect. But having said that, I believe that for any type of art to flourish, there needs to be patronage, without which everything will wither away. From my observation, the pandemic has changed the world in many ways. The computer industry has exploded, but the art scene has taken a hit and may take a while to get back to where it was. Even in the Middle East, where lots of sales usually happened, interest has now dwindled to less than a trickle. It’s a little worrying but I’m hoping for a much better storyline, sooner rather than later. Another thing that needs to change is the obsession with old masters. In India, the collector mainly seeks to acquire a painting by an old master, to the point of completely ignoring the talent of the contemporary artist. This, in my view, does not bode well for the future. But I hope that too will change.
How many times have you been compared to Raja Ravi Varma?
So far, few people have compared me to Raja Ravi Varma, either favorably or not. I’m very grateful for that, but I know that’s not always the case. Sure, those are big shoes to fill, and sure, it’s an honor to be mentioned in the same sentence, but ultimately painting is for me, a language I have to find to express my own individuality. It’s an endless journey.
Read all Latest news, New trends, Cricket News, bollywood news, India News and Entertainment News here. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.