The term “Traditional Painting” connotes a continuity of time honoured practice based on ancient concepts, themes and rules of paintings with ideology and forms in harmony creating the superhuman atmosphere. Thus, since time immemorial, art, particularly in its traditional temple forms, has served not only as cultural vessel, but also functions as a point of entry into philosophical enquiry and to capture and present deeper ruminations into the nature of divinity and the universe. The symbolism-rich, intricate Mysore style is one such traditional art form, which once graced the temples and palaces of the centuries-old Wodeyar empire

Comprising many stages of painstaking and intricate work, including the preparation of the hardboard, the initial sketching, the ‘gesso’ work that provides a subtle embossing, to the pasting of the extremely fragile pure gold leaf and the final painting itself, pieces made following the authentic Mysore school of art take many months of diligent and dedicated effort.

The works are based on tales and events occurring in various scriptural and mythological texts, including the Puranas. The ‘Samudra Manthana’ or Churning of the Ocean – a metaphorical depiction of the creation of the manifested world that features over fifty individual figures – and ‘The Wedding of Girija (Parvathi) and Shiva’ and ‘Kama-Kameswari’ are examples of deeper philosophical ruminations on the structure of the cosmos that have been presented and preserved for generations as art.

Also featured are depictions of gods and goddesses, following the symbolisms and descriptions set out in ancient treatises, including the famed Samudrika-Lakshana – the science of anatomical proportions. ‘Devi Chamundeswari’ serves an example of a more traditional representation of the patron Goddess of the Wodeyar kings.

Based on the premise that India’s rich mythological heritage has a wider audience, as evidenced from the spread and survival of popular themes such as the Ramayana in art forms native to other Asian countries, including Indonesia and Thailand, Shobana Udayasankar aims to stretch the boundaries of this art by presenting new compositions that remain true to the original techniques and methods of this art form alongside traditional representations. ‘Rama and Sita’ (Thai style) is one such example of the artist’s contemporary vision. In this way, the artist seeks to appeal to purists as well as those seeking a more dynamic approach to heritage and tradition, thus bridging the gap between the ancient and the modern.

Balancing strong emphasis on technical perfection as well as aesthetic form, Mysore Art is a style that never fails to delight, inform and engage the audience.