There is a charm in the villages of India. Away from the hustle and bustle of big cities, between the lush green grasslands and golden ripe farms, across the mud roads and bursting with the sounds of chirping birds and mooing cows, the villages carry a rustic fragrance and a pleasing calm. The vibrant colours of the villagers’ clothes give a stunning contrast to the natural earthy tones of nature and both create a beautiful balance, a harmony in the surroundings. Presenting India’s best rural artists, who depict these lives of villagers in their own unique and incredible way.
Black and white sketches of village people on solid, rustic background is Laxman Aelay’s signature style. He grew up the drought-stricken village of Kadirenigudem in Telangana. Even though, now he is an established artist living in a big city, Laxman has not forgotten his roots. Using a monochromatic colour pallet Laxman recreates the scenes from his village on the canvas. The solid background sets a tone to the paintings of the painstakingly drawn human figures. The plain backdrop in his paintings also depict the monotonous lives of the villagers. The artist focuses on the villagers’ facial expressions, their traditional attire and captures their daily activities on the canvas. The simple floral patterned sarees, checked lungi and kurta, women’s hair neatly in a bun, men with moustaches and turbans, resonate the simplicity of these villagers’ lives. Laxman’s subjects are mostly seen in a group, often engaged in conversation or routine activities. These picturesque paintings take you to a calm and quiet village life.
Kandi captures the rhythm of rural life and portrays the men and women in their vibrant, colourful attire, living their daily activities, working, chit-chatting with each other. Even a cursory glance at Kandi’s paintings would take you to the traditional village life in Telangana. Kandi’s portraits would remind one of the caricatures, pleasing to eyes, yet detailed and spectacular. Similar to the plain mud walls of the village houses, Kandi’s backdrop is plain solid colours. His subjects though, steal the show. His main focus is on his subjects’ clothes and jewellery. Kandi seldom paints men in his paintings, but whenever he does, they can be seen wearing a colourful, checked lungi, kurta a tilak on the forehead, moustaches and a piece of cloth around their neck, thus giving a glance of a typical Telangana man. The women, on the other hand, are draped in bright printed sarees, have numerous piercings in their ears, flaunting their mangalsootra and necklaces, bangles in their arms, payal or anklets in their feet, hair neatly tied in a bun, usually gossiping with each other. Unlike the modern city girls with a variety of leather bags, women in the village still carry cloth pouches and bags. The patterns on these women’s sarees resemble the traditional rangoli patterns, this is the artist’s way of preserving the culture of putting rangoli in front of the houses.
Panchal’s grandmother had a business of making wooden puppets. Perhaps this is the reason why many figures in his paintings resemble the posture of a traditional wooden puppet. Over the years, he has perfected a narrative style of art called storyboard, hence his art also tells tales along with being paintings. While many artists with rural portraits as their subjects, choose a rustic pallet to depict their roots and connections with the soil and farms, Panchal found his inspiration in the colours of the temples. His red echos the red of kumkum, yellow is the brilliant yellow of haldi. The deep tones in his paintings give a sense of security, something that one might feel in the sanctuary of a temple. The hints of bright tones would remind you of the diya lit next to the idol of god. While most of Panchal’s subjects are young village girls, he often also portrays young monks or priest boys. One can see honesty, innocence and hope in these young village boys and girls.
Siddharth Shingade shares a deep emotional bond with his birthplace, Marathwada. He chooses the earthy tones of different colours, to express his love for his homeland. Siddharth’s painting resonates the mellow moods and simple nature of the people living in Marathwada. He uses his brush and colours to illustrate the daily lives of people from his village. The ocher tones of yellow, rustic reds, deep blues bring one closer to the soil of Marathwada. Siddharth paintings carry a depth, his paintings seem to depict an ongoing conversation amongst the subjects, if you listen closely, you might hear the exchange of dialogues.
Born and raised in the spiritual town of Pandharpur, Sachin Sagare found his subject in the spirituality of women he grew up admiring. The women in Sachin’s painting provide strong support to the men in their lives. His paintings are mellow tones of bright colours such as blue, red, green and yellow. Setting the mood of the painting, Sachin chooses different tones of a single colour as a base colour, making his paintings monochromatic. The kumkum on the women’s foreheads, their bright red blouses and a cubist cluster in the background, break the monotony of the painting and add a hint of interest to it. Flowers play a very vital role in Sachin’s paintings. His subjects are often seen plucking flowers, offering them to God or using them as decorations. Flowers add a delicate touch to the painting and enhance the elegant look of the paintings. Just like the women of Pandharpur, Sachins subjects are elegant, graceful, calm and beautiful.
Sivabalan’s portrayal of South is as vibrant, colourful and stunning as Southern India. Traditional attire such as the sarees, and lungis, the use of flowers in women’s hair, lots of jewellery and fondness for animals are some of the main focuses of these painting. Rightly titled as the ‘Scenes from South’ Sivabalan’s paintings portray the daily lives and celebrations of common people of South India. On a white background, the artist illustrates different activities, such as a beautifully decorated elephant or holy bull, a procession of a Hindu deity, people buying a coconut from the vendor, children going to school or women returning home from their farms. The white background in Sivabalan’s paintings enhances the beauty and vibrancy of his colourful subjects. Though he uses different media including watercolour, acrylics and oils, his paintings have the same mystic effect to them. Through his paintings, Sivabaland opens a door to the beauty, simplicity and celebrations of South India.
Malchand Pareek found his muse in the struggles and survival of rural Indian people. His subjects are common people, toiling hard to make their ends meet. Often, he would paint a man or a woman in typical North Indian attire engaged in a customary activity such as pottery, loading of trucks, carrying earthen pots full of water on their head, etc, but would tweak with the actual activity. He leaves enough hints in the painting for viewers to interpret the subject’s original activity but changes what they are really doing. For instance, a woman in ghagara-choli carrying water in earthen pots on her head is a typical scene in Western states of the country, however, instead of the pots, the woman in Malchand’s paintings would be carrying a tall building. Potter instead of making an earthen pot could be seen creating skyscraper on his potter’s wheel. The artist focuses on portraying the burdens of modern-day development being carried by these poor men and women, without actually experiencing any of these luxuries. He uses revenue stamps as his background and paints the hardships of the common man on them.
Suresh Gosavi explores the subtleties of rural India and Indian heritage along with a hint of Hindu mythology. The moodscape of his paintings elucidates faith, consciousness, inner peace and positive energy. His paintings are earthy-toned, vivid and full of cultural references. Animals, especially those of religious importance form a very important role in Gosavi’s paintings. Elephants, cows and bulls make their frequent appearances in his artwork. Young boys playing with the animals, where animals are comfortable with then children playing around them, elder men conferencing amongst themselves and children learning from the elders is a common theme of these paintings.