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February 22, 2020 Prajwala GhateArt

Mayur’s Warli Art: Masterpieces of Contemporary and Traditional Fusion

“One day, you will feel a joy in having resisted the temptation to hate, and there is truly intoxicating poetry in the goodness of him who has suffered.” These words by the famous French post-impressionist painter of the 1800s, Paul Gauguin ring true today in 2017 as Mayur recollects the tale of his association with Warli Art. Born of unique trials and tribulations faced by him as a member of one of the largest Indian tribes that has largely rejected modern advancements of society and remains focused on Mother Nature, the “truly intoxicating poetry” that resides in Mayur manifests in the form of an exquisite contemporary touch that he imparts to the traditional art of his Warli tribe.

Mayur’s immersion into Warli art was the culmination of a bittersweet journey that he undertook as a teenager from a small and serene Warli village in Maharashtra going out into the modern metropolitan world to discover his destiny. His grandfather, a strong proponent of education, had played a pivotal role in his village, fighting for the rights of the Warli tribe that he was born in.  Realizing the importance of formal knowledge and training in the development of the community, Mayur’s parents ensured that he pursued a degree course in Management Studies from the University of Mumbai that would open up opportunities for a lucrative corporate career ahead.

However, this phase of Mayur’s life exposed him to the harsh realities of racial discrimination in a big city. The young and affluent, intoxicated on the power of means that were inherited and not earned, were quick to dismiss a fellow human as unworthy of respect based on his/her economic background. Perturbed by this injustice, he sought an antidote to his suffering that arrived in the form of a chance to assist his aunt, an experienced Warli artist, and accompany her on an artistic excursion abroad. When he witnessed the respect and acclaim that an art form pioneered by his community commanded in the international creative space, he made a decision to further strengthen the pride of his culture by making his own contribution as a Warli artist.

Life Rooted in Nature

Mayur, an eclectic and enigmatic artist, has reimagined the traditional Warli wall paintings in a way that encompasses the established rudimentary graphic vocabulary of the art – a circle, a triangle, and a square, while at the same time elevating its ability to portray detail distinctive of his themes. An extensive research done by him on the stories rendered through Warli art revealed an incessant repetition of a few tales over and over again throughout its history. With this discovery, he realized the need to discover and portray new themes while adhering to the basic tenets of the art form.

In this attempt to preserve Warli art while at the same time breathing a new lease of life into it, he turned to village folklore rooted in nature – the jungles, the mountains and the animals. Everything from the stories he had heard as a child, recounted by his grandparents, to observations of various life events in the village, such as marriages, funerals, etc., became a source of inspiration for him. From being captivated by the antics of a shaman to being mesmerized by the marvelous intricacy of a piece of moss on the forest floor, Mayur has found the themes for his paintings anywhere and everywhere.

Experiments with New Media and Materials

The novelty of Mayur’s ideas translates beautifully into the splendor of his work. Be it the depiction of the underground mysteries of soil and the various life forms residing in it or the delineation of fine bacteria and underwater plants in a water body, he executes each concept to a pleasing perfection. Unlike the usual practice in Warli art, his aim is not to just fill the canvas with the basic geometric shapes, but to create a sense of contemporary minimalism by depicting just enough of what is required. This twist to his creative oeuvre has been deeply appreciated by audiences all over the world.

Mayur has experimented and gained mastery over a variety of media for Warli art. While the traditional painting material consisted of white pigment made from a mixture of rice paste and water with gum as a binder, he has extended it to acrylics and poster colors considering the required durability of the painting or the installation. The base used can also vary from canvas to khadi cloth to other surfaces painted in earthen hues.

For Mayur, the journey until now has been extremely rewarding as he has been able to combine his calling with his desire to transform the image of his tribe as a nature loving and creatively endowed community throughout the world. In the future, he hopes to innovate further with the infinite possibilities present in the world of Warli art.