Past exhibitions

[MOSA Belgium] Enduring Epics – Raghupati Bhat – [April 2014 – April 2015]

Raghupati_smallThe prospect of inaugurating the 2014 art exhibits at MOSA with such outstanding, accomplished artists as Shobha Broota, Raghupati Bhat, and Poosapati Parameshwar Raju fills me with profound joy.
The inauguration will be attended by our guest of honor His Excellency M.S. Puri, ambassador of India to Belgium and the EU, and art curator Sushma K. Bahl, who has written the texts about all three artists. Moreover, this festive event will be graced by musical performances by celebrated flautist Panditji Hariprasad Chaurasia and renowned sitar player Subrata De. Our exhibition program for Indian and International artists working on spiritual, devotional and sacred art is quite dynamic and our galleries in Belgium ( Radhadesh, Durbuy) and Italy (Villa Vrindavan, Florence) will be showcasing many of them in the upcoming years.
MOSA’s goal is to bridge the cultural divide between India and Europe and between material and spiritual life. Art is a perfect medium to do so, and we hope that many Europeans will discover the excellent Indian artists who try to convey a spiritual message. We are convinced that MOSA’s visitors will come to appreciate and enjoy the currently exhibited work of all three artists.
Raghupati Bhat’s exhibit shares gallery space with Parameshwar Raju’s. The two complement each other rather nicely. The Ramayana has been told and retold as well as depicted in the arts for millennia, and human society never tires of hearing these wonderful pastimes of the Lord. The Lord is eternal and so are His pastimes. We only inhabit this planet for a short time, and the greatest achievement obtainable by a human being is not wealth, fame, power, beauty, or material intelligence but devotion for the Almighty and making solid progress on the spiritual path.
In the paintings presented in this volume, Raghupati Bhat expertly fuses the traditional with the contemporary and offers a new interpretation of the great Indian classics: the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, and the Bhagavata Purana. These series are exquisitely composed with touches of calligraphy. Raghupati carries us to other times and plunges us in the bittersweet stories of Lord Rama and Sita Devi, the tragic and heroic pastimes of the Pandavas, and the exploits of the various avatars (incarnations) of Lord Krishna.
Let us reflect on those wonderful pastimes, and let us imbibe the high ethics and morality they contain. Lord Rama and Hanuman; Lord Krishna and Arjuna – the Lord and His dedicated servants will eternally continue to enlighten and inspire human society, no matter how materialistic it becomes. May the artistic renderings of classical texts in this catalog bring out in all onlookers feelings of genuine devotion to the Lord, of brotherhood to other human beings, and of compassion to animals and nature.
Martin Gurvich, Director

Resources:

A transcendent imagery in petite renderings and fine re-creations of mythological narratives mark Raghupati Bhat’s artscape. Raghupati’s vast creative repertoire includes imaginative re-presentations of characters and episodes from literary works, such as Ramayana and Mahabharata, and an expanse of Ganjifa work (intricate paintings on small playing cards) that have earned him the honorary title Ganjifa Raghupati Bhat. His drawings and paintings, metaphysical in their ethos, bring alive the pantheons and narratives described in classical and folk literature. Evocative of timelessness, Raghupati’s art is adorned with a meditative streak.

The Artist

Raghupati’s interest in painting and passion for ancient Indian culture can be traced back to his early childhood. At first he lived in temple villages in Udupi, where his father was a priest for the local shrine. Later, for schooling, he was sent off to the temple city Nagamangla, where he lived in his sister’s home. Although the family wasn’t wealthy, the lad spent a carefree and happy childhood in the vicinity of temples and forests. He recalls his daily visits to the Ganesha temple, where he would sit and watch the sculptures for hours and visualize the mantras (sacred utterances) chanted by the priests. Gradually, as he continued sketching and painting forms and figures, his talent got noticed.

After Nagamangla, Raghupati moved to Bangalore to study art at Chitrakala Parishath under the careful tutelage of its Founder-Secretary, the legendary Prof. M. S. Nanjunda Rao. Raghupati’s passion for art and urge to learn more about ancient Indian culture and artistic techniques took him to Kottayam, where he attended short courses and was trained in mural painting and folk tattoo art. There he also learnt how to make and work with natural colours and materials. “Temple sculptures were my school,” says the devout artist whose work reflects the latent impressions that got etched into his mind and soul at a young age. The years spent amidst sculptures and paintings of gods and demons in temples proved inspirational for his immaculate work in miniature format on cards and on other renderings in his own unique style. “I like to create my own symbols, inspired by ancient Indian culture,” the artist explains.

Raghupati’s interest and belief in nature has also impacted his art. Fond of gardening and a strict vegetarian, he prefers natural vegetables and raw fruit to cooked meals. “Man is the only living being that cooks to eat; even animals eat what grows naturally,” he says. To enjoy nature and the clean air, he gets up before sunrise and starts the day with a long walk, often uphill to the Chamundi temple, along with a couple of like-minded friends to discusses various Upanishads and artistic matters. After that, rituals like bathing, reciting mantras, and reading scriptures are followed by two or three long sessions of drawing and painting through the day with music playing in the background.

Like many of his contemporaries, he struggled hard in the beginning and survived by doing portrait paintings, temple murals, billboard paintings, and illustrations. Following his marriage in 1986, he moved from Nagmangla to Srirangapatana in 1990. His fascination with Ganjifa art prompted him not only to take up painting on small playing cards but also collecting old ganjifas and setting up Chitra Saale, a Ganjifa museum in Srirangapatana. Sadly, he had to close the museum in 1992 when he shifted his base to Mysore. This city has been kind to Raghupati.

He’s doing well now and peacefully lives with his family in a house of his own design which features an image of the sun god with twenty-four gayatri mantras (Vedic hymns and chants) inlaid in the central roof.

Repertoire

The collection here includes over eighty-six mostly small paintings. There is a series on Krishna in his various avatars (incarnations). For instance, in one painting the much- -adored deity appears as a playful baby next to Balarama and his mother, and in another as the charming and virtuous Rama. And in the Mahabharata section, Krishna is also depicted as a philosopher friend advising Arjuna on the battlefield. In yet another painting, chariots dash over the battlefield with flags fluttering in the air. Such works tell the multilayered story of the Mahabharata in engaging visuals, some of which have been published in books. The sketched and painted renderings also include episodes from the Ramayana. In one composition we see the four little brothers (Rama, Lakshmana, Bharata, and Shatrugna) born of king Dasharatha’s three wives (Kaushalya, Sumitra, and Kaikeyi) in their baby swings. And in Kalyana the wedding of Sita and Rama is re-played, and dozens of people are shown squeezed into 36×27 cm of space! The depiction of the Battle of Sri Lanka similarly features numerous figures within a small frame, which, of course, speaks volumes about the artist’s expertise in handling minute details with finesse. And the scene that shows Rama and Lakshmana protecting a yajna (ritual offerings to fire accompanied by Vedic chants) from demons, highlights the artist’s imagination and his ability to present familiar episodes in different settings. A set of his sixty painted cards (7 cm diameter each), portraying stories of love and valour from the great Ramayana, is housed at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. Raghupati’s fascination with nature is especially evident in images showing little birds flying in the sky. Other works feature trees, lotuses, flowers, ponds, mountains, and other ecological symbols along with the sun and the moon. Noteworthy is the horse emitting fire in one painting and the detailing of the costumes and jewellery worn by men and women in several others. The seated guru and his prayerful follower standing in obeisance with the clouds and marquee above evoke familiar narratives and mythological episodes. Finely rendered within limited space, Raghupati’s works offer a glimpse into the artist’s talent to compose and create layered narratives in austere imagery.

The bodily contours of the naked sage Rishabhadeva in the Avatara section display Raghupati’s mastery in portraiture, as does the painting of the half-animal, half-human Kamadhenu in the Ramayana section. There are finely etched black-and-white drawings in pen on paper, while in others a dash of subtle palette is added for enhanced visual impact. The paintings featuring the arrival of the sages at the hermitage or those depicting Krishna in his various incarnations — Kurma, Matsya, Narasimha, Vamana, and others — all evoke celebrated narratives.

As a devout Hindu, Raghupati has studied the Ramayana, Mahabharata, Bhagvad-gita, and the Upanishads. Though the episodes and characters he creates, on paper and on canvas, are drawn broadly in accordance with these sacred texts, they also reveal his imaginative touch. Contemporary elements are added to metaphysical themes, and icons are painted and drawn with sharp-pointed features as against the highly ornate voluptuous forms of the tradition. The artist has also drawn and painted deities that are worshipped outside of Hinduism, such as Buddha.

The prefix “Ganjifa” has been added to Raghupati’s name to honour his pioneering work that helped revive this almost extinct art of miniature painting on tiny cards, also known as Chadh. Kings and nawabs (nobles of the Mughal and British eras) used ganjifas for playing card games, a favourite pastime of, for instance, Krishna-raja Wadiyars III of Mysore. To evolve his own style, Raghupati researched and interacted with the royals of Mysore and travelled through Karnataka, Orissa, Bihar, and other parts of India — wherever the form was practised. Painting the cards in different shapes and intricate designs, he is credited for revitalizing the Karnataka Ganjifa painting. His work in this format includes various series on Dhammapada, Durgasaptasati, Basavanna’s Vacanas, Vedas, Purusasukta, Raga-ragini (paintings based on Indian musical modes), yoga, Ayurveda (a system of traditional medicine), and, of course, the Visvarupa that won him the coveted National Award. Although Raghupati’s focus has now shifted to painting on paper, with 330 Ganjifa cards of Chamundeshwari Chadh, 120 cards of Dasavathar, ninety-six leafs on Ramayana, and ninety-six on other epics, he has built a large repository of Ganjifa work.

Technique

Initially taking up a job with Kaavi Kale in the early ’80s, Raghupati traversed tough terrains, working and experimenting with a variety of subjects and techniques to get to where he is today. From line drawings, painting portraits, posters, milestones, murals, and hoardings, he moved on to the fine art of painting traditional characters and narratives from scriptures. But before Raghupati took up Ganjifa work, he had already completed a series of miniature paintings of gods and demons on paper.

Raghupati takes time to develop his concept and thinking it through. Research and study of various literary classics and discussions with experts precede most of his artistic attempts. Based on those discussions, he produces intricate drawings and elaborate paintings on paper, card, cloth, walls, and canvas. He first sketches the imagery before he takes to painting with brush, though some of his miniature work is painted directly onto the paper. It takes him two to four weeks to finish one small painting. Raghupati began with individual figures but has now mastered the art of painting massive scenes with hundreds of figures on tiny surfaces. Some of his figuration is so minute that he needs to draw and illuminate it with a brush made of a single hair. And one needs a magnifying glass to see the finely-drawn divine deity in his or her full glory.

Raghupati believes the human body is a compound of pancha-tattva (five natural elements) and follows the yogic discipline of painting as described in the Chitra Sutra from the Vishnu-dharmottara Purana. He has finished a number of drawings for an edition of Kumaravyasa Bharatha, a medieval epic in Kannada. Inspired by such concepts and Sanskrit texts, the aesthetics of his art evoke the viewer’s imagination and meditative aptitude. Most of his work is produced in water colour and drawings on 36×27 cm paper. His Ganjifa works on cards, however, can be as small as about three or five square centimetres each, sometimes featuring hundreds of finelyetched tiny figures.

Invited by the last Wadiyar scion of the Mysore royal family, Raghupati has been working on the restoration of the murals and gold-foil work on the walls and pillars of the Durbar Hall and Kalyana Mantapa at Mysore palace. Leading a group of artists and art students, he is trying to bring the palace walls back to their original glory. Using organic materials and traditional techniques, he has been working there with over sixty young artist and art students, including his own daughter Vidya, to complete this project. Under the master artist’s supervision, the trainee artists learn to prepare the base and work with organic sources.

Raghupati prefers home-made materials, such as natural colours, paper, and cloth for all his work. He makes his own brushes, gums, varnishes, colours, and related accessories. Grinding minerals and mixing vegetables with flowers, leaves, roots, mud, and other organic materials, he gets his desired colours and palette “Minerals and vegetable colours are rich and give a subtle glow to the work,” says the artist who essentially works with the three primary colours plus black and white. And his brushes are made of squirrel hair, which are “supple and especially suited for Ganjifa paintings.” To prepare the base, he sticks old newspaper and cloth (up to seven layers) on wood with tree glue and animal gum.

After the painting, the work is given a lacquer coating for added effect and longevity. The lacquer, too, is home-made and is prepared from honey, plants, and other natural materials. For works on paper, Raghupati prefers watercolours, but on canvas he uses acrylic. He has made several small line drawings with just pencil and pen, while others come with a touch of paint. Still others have their entire surface bathed in colour. Some compositions are adorned with calligraphic markings. “Inspired by my visit to Japan and China,” Raghupati is currently experimenting with Kannada calligraphy to get text and form to coalesce in the images. “Gain and loss are two sides of the same coin,” declares Raghupati, who sees life as a mixed blessing. He appears at peace with himself and communicates that tranquillity and inward gaze through his remarkable artistic creations. Engaging in conception and amazing in execution, the transcendent imagery by Raghupati Bhat presents a visually delightful and spiritually uplifting artscape.


Ganjifa Raghupathi BhatRaghupathi Bhat (1957) was born in Udupi, India, and grew up in the precincts of the temple city where his father was a priest. Because of the financial constraints of his family, he went to school at agamangla, a village near the forest, where his sister lived. He did not enjoy studying, however, so he decided to follow his passion for art and joined the Chitrakala Parishad, an institute at Kotayam, where he could master techniques of mural painting and work with natural colours.

Raghupathi’s artscape is permeated with mythological narratives and icons inspired by South Indian temple sculptures, but he has also painted some nonreligious themes. While chanting mantras, he draws and paints his imagery based on his readings of the Upanishads, other scriptures, and scholarly discussions. He has been credited with reviving Mysore Ganjifa painting, which has earned him the title Ganjifa Raghupathi Bhat. He has also been awarded with the Kala Puraskar, the Pariyaya Mutt-Udupi, and the Dr. Raj Amogha Nagarika Award. Raghupathi’s work has been exhibited across India and also in the UK, the Netherlands, Japan, Canada, and Tunisia. His work has become part of various collections, including those at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London and at the Palace Museum in Mysore.

At the same Palace Museum he has also been restoring some old works, while guiding a group of over sixty young artists in restoring old wall paintings with mineral colours and traditional techniques. His works have been featured in various publications, and Raghupathi is a member of various advisory committees. He lives in Mysore, in a house of his own design, and works from his studio in the city.

AWARDS

1989 Vishwakarma Award

1991 Jaycee State Award

1992 Jaycee National Award

1993 National Award (presented by Dr. Shankardayal Sharma, former president of India)

1996 Lalitha Kala Academy Award

2006 Varshada Ananya Kalavidaru (presented by U.R. Anantha Murthy)

2009 Kalapuraskar Award (Mantralaya Mutt)

2012 Pejawar Mutt Rama Vitala Award

2012 Pariyaya Sode Mutt Udupi award

2012 Dr. Raj Amogha Nagarika Award

REWARDS

He was named ‘Ganjifa’ for his revival of Mysore Ganjifa paintings. He taught Mysore Ganjifa paintings to over three hundred students at:

1993 Chitra Kala Maharshi, Puttige Mutt, Udupi

1996 Chitra Brahma, Krishna mitra mandala, Mysore

2001 Chitrakalanidhi, Palimaru Mutt, Udupi

2012 ‘Kalabhaskara’ Pariyaya Sode Mutt, Udupi

EXHIBITIONS AND DEMONSTRATIONS

1992 Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, London

1994 Preparation of natural colors, Victoria & Albert Museum, London

1996 The Hague, Netherlands

1997 Tunisia, organized by Handicraft Department, Govt of India

2001 Indian embassy to Tokyo, Chayamachi gallery Osaka, Hiroshima

2006 World peace Conference in Kyoto, Japan

2008 World Peace Conference, Kyoto

2010 Yoga Station, Ottowa, Canada

2010 Puttige Mutt, USA

2011 Attended world peace conference Tanzania, Africa

2012 Renovated wall paintings and gold leaf work in Durbar Hall of Mysore Palace

2013 Gold leaf work in Durbar Hall, Khasagi Darbar Hall and Kalyana Mantap, Mysore

COLLECTIONS

Sixty miniatures based on the Ramayana, Victoria & Albert Museum, London

Twenty-four wodeyar works, Lalith Mahal Palace Hotel, Mysore

Eighty-six works, MOSA, Belgium

Paintings in Manjusha Museum, Dharmasthala and several prestigious places around the world

MEMBERSHIP

Ex-president of Samskara Bharathi, Mysore

1993 – 1996 Karnataka Lalitha

Director: Martin Gurvich

Curator: Sushma K. Bahl

General Manager: Raymond Hoogenboom

Collections: Anushka Hoogenboom

Publishing: Phelelani Mdabe

Website: Dario Knez

Belgium

General Manager: Raymond Hoogenboom

Reception: Maria Grison • Patience Offei • Bergita Gjergjaj

Château de Petite Somme, B-6940, Septon (Durbuy), Belgium

t: +32 (0)86 43 30 22 • e: info@mosaitaly.comwww.mosaitaly.com

Italy

General Manager: Patrizio Landolfi

Via Scopeti 106/108, San Casciano in Val di Pesa, 50026, Florence, Italy

t: +39 (055) 82 00 54 • e: info@mosaitaly.comwww.mosaitaly.com

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