26 June 2012

From the archive - Indian art

The emergence of spirit and matter
"Garden and Cosmos" at the British Museum in 2009 was a wonderful show. First, large detailed paintings (from Rajasthan) of gardens ... to paintings showing the beginning of the world - from nothingness.

As the press release said: "The two elements of the title, ‘Garden’ and ‘Cosmos’ represent two distinct styles and functions over the period represented in the exhibition. ‘Garden’ presents paintings of palace life, many of them centred on the pleasures of the royal court and including vibrant illustrations of the great Indian epics, especially of the Ramayana. In ‘Cosmos’, we see paintings from the long reign of Man Singh (r.1803-43) which are remarkable as, in their subject matter, they turn away from the glowing exterior world of court life and instead address the interior world of philosophical speculation and the origin of the universe. The precise meaning of some of these paintings is unclear but the large fields of distinctive, brilliantly coloured wave patterns reminds the viewer that surrender to blocks of pulsating colour is not a 20th century European invention."

See more paintings here. The cover of the exhibition catalogue shows elephants cavorting in the rain -

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