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Keeping the Legacy of Kishangarh Alive

By Neha Kirpal

Princess Vaishnavi Kumari of Kishangarh recently created and curated a new series of paintings by her art atelier Studio Kishangarh. Titled “Kishangarh, A Mythical Landscape,” the exhibition draws inspiration from the rich history of Kishangarh paintings and is an ode to the luscious flora and fauna that surround the fort and lake. Founded in 2010 by Princess Vaishnavi Kumari of Kishangarh, Studio Kishangarh is situated in the Kishangarh Fort and serves as a unique amalgamation of old aesthetics and techniques with new materials and concepts.

In this exclusive interview, Princess Vaishnavi Kumari tells us more about the themes and techniques of the exhibition as well as how Studio Kishangarh is helping revive and promote the traditional art form of miniature paintings.

Tell our readers about your latest series "Kishangarh, a mythical landscape". What is the idea, and inspiration behind it?

It is inspired by the landscapes that are found in the Kishangarh miniature paintings in our selection. We have taken inspiration from not just the flora and fauna found in these works but also the architecture of the buildings and the natural beauty around the environs of Kishangarh.

How long did it take you to put it together? How is it different from your earlier work, and what were your challenges?

It took us about six to eight months to put it together. One of our main challenges was that it was a completely new concept for us. We have tried to move away from what we do traditionally, which is concentrating mainly on Pichwai paintings that are influenced by the bhakti of Radha and Krishna. We have no figurative depictions in this collection, which is why it took us this long.

Give us details about its two themes.

The two broad themes in this collection are the landscape which is influenced by what is still present in Kishangarh and what was there about three centuries ago when the school of art originated. The second theme is based on the idea of the creation of the cosmos as seen in Hindu mythology and miniature paintings.

Tell us about some of the traditional miniature painting techniques, materials and elements used in the art works.

The style of painting is miniature. The artists have had this vocation in their family for generations. The traditional colours that we have used are stone colours which we produce in-house. We have also used traditional miniature painting paper. There is a lot of detailed work in gold and silver leaf. However, there is also a larger body of work which has more modern materials, such as acrylic on canvas or mixed media on organic cotton. 

Explain how you incorporate traditional techniques into modern works.

We approach this in two different methods. The first is that when we use traditional materials, the art and the themes that we do are contemporary. The second is that when we have more traditional works, we use modern materials.

Tell us more about how Studio Kishangarh is helping revive and promote the traditional art form of miniature paintings.

In the last few decades, there has been a slow decline in artists in Kishangarh and the villages and cities around. This is mainly because it is a vocational occupation, so people are taught at home in the form of a guru-shishya parampara. Further, miniature paintings are very taxing and time-consuming. Due to modern times, people prefer to get more stable, less labour-intensive and high-paying jobs. Our whole idea is to get the younger generation interested. We hope to eventually create a school of art where people can come from all over India and even abroad and learn the Kishangarh style of paintings.

Tell us about some of your previous art series.

We have done several solo exhibitions. We just recently finished an exhibition called 'Domains of Wonder' in Kathmandu. It was an introduction to the contemporary style that Studio Kishangarh is known for. It had a variation of Pichwai paintings as well as landscapes and a series of Ragini Todi. Before that, we did an exhibition in Chennai called 'Contemporary Twist to Tradition' in which we mainly concentrated on Pichwai paintings, Shri Nath ji and other devotional work. Last year, we had another solo art show called 'The Path of Grace', our flagship exhibition where we introduced all the different kinds of work we have at Studio Kishangarh.

What are you working on next?

I am very keen on doing more intricate series of work on just stone colours. We are also trying to incorporate miniatures using traditional materials and make them into modern miniatures in smaller dimensions.

‘Kishangarh, A Mythical Landscape’ is being showcased at the Main Art Gallery, Bikaner House, New Delhi from 8th December to 12th December, 2023.


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