A tribute to Raja Ravi Varma
“Celebrating Raja Ravi Varma: The Relevance & Significance of a National Art Treasure” aims at re-examining and reviving
various ideas and debates on Indian modernism, art and cinema, and especially the concept of ‘Freedom of Creative Expression’.
The Osian’s Archive Exhibition Godly prints – Gaudy and/or Visionary’ will kick start the celebration on Ocotbet 3 at the Tao Art Gallery and will showcase a unique collection of antiquarian oleographs, lithographs and advertisements.
The exhibition is set to continue until October 5.
This is the first in the series of 52 live events organised and curated by Osianama so as to develop and nurture synergies between the physical and the virtual world of art. Credited with bringing about a momentous turn in the country’s art scenario, Varma was the first artist to cast Indian gods and mythological characters in natural earthy surroundings using a European realism.
Neville Tuli, founder and chairman of the Osian’s Group, is scheduled to talk on the “Potential Impact of the Osian’s Archive, Osianama and www.osianama.com on research, learning and education for the Indian arts, cinema and culture.” Then there will be two talks focusing on Varma by Rupika Chawla, author of ‘Raja Ravi Varma: Painter of Colonial India’ highlighting the ‘Influence of Raja Ravi Varma on the Indian fine and popular arts and modernism’ and Ashish Rajadhyaksha, co-author of the ‘Encyclopedia of Indian cinema’, who will speak on “Raja Ravi Varma & Cinema: Post the Phalke Connection”.
panel debate and interaction with special invitees and the audience will be held, titled ‘Where do we draw the line?’ and featuring eminent speakers from the realm of art, cinema and literature.
According to the organisers, the narratives Varma chose to freeze upon and depict as static images reveal a romantic angle, which was chosen as much for popularity of theme as for their essential links to Indian thought and values. Four oleographs in the exhibition reveal different shades of romance and the spiritual elusiveness of the union for man and woman – Shakuntala readying herself to meet her lover Dushyanta; celestial dancer Urvashi leaving her forlorn lover King Pururavas for the heavens; Sukadeva resisting the charms of the most beautiful celestial nymph Rambha sent by Lord Indra to tempt; and Vishwamitra refusing to accept Shakuntala as his daughter from Maneka as she tries to return to the heavens.
“Every noble dream our country and our great leaders have for us depends on the manner in which we defend and nurture the freedoms for creative expression and intellectual debate. This freedom is at the heart of the human mind seeking a fearlessness and excellence for itself, constantly pushing itself to break existing norms, standards and benchmarks, so as to aspire and emerge higher,” says Tuli.
He hopes that the debate will explore all these burning issues in a systematic manner with a focus on the Indian experience.
Osian’s has been trying to bring back to the country part of its artistic cultural heritage. It has acquired over 80 per cent of the oleograph collection of Varma from the Lonavla foundation.
In July 2008, Osian’s had unveiled a historic painting by Varma depicting a royal scene at its Cinefan festival in New Delhi. The 1880 painting titled ‘The Maharaja of Travancore’ was bought for a whopping over USD 60 million from British auction house Bonhams by Tuli.
The picture depicts the Maharaja of Travancore and his younger brother welcoming the Governor General of Madras on his official visit to Trivandrum in 1880.