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Hamsa and Damayanti: The Swan Messanger
For someone brought up in an Indian household, mythological stories from epics, holy texts, folklore and oral culture have been an integral part of our lives. Indian mythic lore is replete with fantasies, mysteries, heart-tugging love stories, tales of valour, sublime tragedies, observational humour and much more…
Raja Ravi Varma, an artist ahead of his time reimagined several such mythical episodes and breathed new life into them in his inimitable style. It was for the first time that these gods, demigods and fantastical characters were transported from the temple walls to canvases and lithographic prints. These representations bearing these fascinating men and women remain imprinted in the popular imagination.
This particular oleograph titled Hamsa Damayanti Samvad, tells the epic tale of Raja Ravi Varma’s most inspirational character, ‘Damayanti’, who appears in the Mahabharata. Damayanti was the daughter of the Yadava King, Bhima, the ruler of Vidarbha. She is said to be possessed of such beauty that even the Gods wanted to marry her. As it happened, the hero or the Nayaka of the story, was the king of Nishadha. Though a valiant warrior and a noble king, Nala was still unmarried. One day a brahmin (a priest) visited his court and on learning of his bachelor status, he suggested Damayanti’s name. At Nala’s insistence, the brahmin painted an image of the princess and on seeing the painting Nala fell in love with Damyanti. Then, one day, Nala caught a beautiful divine swan having the ability to speak with humans. Nala agreed to free it only after the swan vowed to fly to Damayanti and sing praises of Nala before the princess. As per the story, the swan came to Damayanti’s palace extolled King Nala’s virtues and similarly told him of Damayanti’s extraordinary beauty. And from here commenced the eternal love story of Nala and Damayanti. With the messages of love being carried to and fro by the swan, Nala and Damyanti are drawn toward each other despite being miles away from each other. In this oleograph, Damayanti, who is eagerly waiting to hear from the swan is immensely relieved as the swan swoops in while she waits with bated breath to hear about her beloved Nala. Later, how Damayanti and Nala meet and eventually get married is a fascinating story that deserves an individual piece of text.
Ravi Varma, Hamsa Damayanti Samvad, Ravi Varma Press Picture Depot, 1928
Image courtesy: Raja Ravi Varma Heritage Foundation
Raja Ravi Varma immortalized the moment when Damayanti meets the swan in Hamsa Damayanti Samvad translated to the 'Meeting of Damayanti and the Swan'. Draped in red and green silk saree bordered with gold brocade, Damayanti is modesty personified but she is unable to disguise the eagerness with which she looks at the swan fly back to Nala after she has conversed with the bird. Standing amidst the lush palace gardens, a few lotus petals and leaves are strewn at her feet, possibly mutilated while she waited for the swan to visit her. The image continues the story of Hamsa and Damyanti, the subject of a famous Raja Ravi Varma painting called Hamsa Damayanti (1899). The painting shows Damayanti earnestly listening to the swan as he narrates Nala’s praises. The swan sits on an ornate pillar in the lotus pond and Damayanti listens to the divine being. This oleograph continues this compositional narrative where we see Damayanti sending the swan back to Nala carrying her message. There are noticeable changes in the oleograph as Damayanti wears a slightly different saree and blouse, her jewellery and hairstyle, and the landscape in the background appear slightly different as well. The swan on its part sports a distinctive yellow plume on its head in the oleograph.
Raja Ravi Varma, Hamsa Damyanti, 1899, Oil on canvas Collection: Sree Chitra Gallery, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India
Image courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
In all this, the genius of Raja Ravi Varma is quite discerning as he effortlessly transmorphed the text into an image. The brilliance of this small encounter between the princess and the divine swan mentioned in Mahabharata and Naishadha Charita was hard to imagine till Ravi Varma gave us the visual depiction of the scene. Now, we know who is Damayanti, we know how her and Nala’s eternal love story took off, we are made aware of her beauty, her emotions, her eagerness, and all in all we are witness to this fantastical encounter between her and the talking swan. And, like Damayanti, Raja Ravi Varma brought to life many other Nayikas and their stories that were hidden inside the tomes, as sometimes we tend to skip over mortals in our pursuit of God.
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ARTICLES ON ART INSIGHT
How to Tell a Lithograph from a Painting: A Comprehensive Guide
Art enthusiasts and collectors often come across various forms of visual art, including lithographs and paintings. While both mediums have their own unique appeal, it is important to understand the differences between them. This article aims to provide a comprehensive guide on how to differentiate between a lithograph and a painting, considering their techniques, materials, and characteristics. By gaining insights into these key factors, you'll be equipped with the knowledge to identify and appreciate these art forms more effectively. Understanding Lithographs A lithograph is a type of printmaking technique that involves the process of drawing or painting on a stone or metal plate. It is based on the principle of oil and water repelling each other. The artist creates an image on the stone using specialized tools, and then applies ink to the stone's surface. The ink adheres to the image while being repelled by the wet areas, and a piece of paper is pressed onto the plate to transfer the image. A more detailed article on Lithographs can be referenced in the article What Is A Lithograph. Analyzing Painting Techniques Painting, on the other hand, involves the application of pigments onto a surface, typically canvas, using various tools like brushes, knives, or even fingers. Paintings can be created with different types of paints, such as oil, acrylic, watercolor, or gouache. Artists have greater freedom to manipulate the paint, creating textures, layering colors, and incorporating various brushstrokes, thereby resulting in a unique and original piece of artwork. There are a few key differences between lithographs and paintings that can help you tell them apart. Paper: Lithographs are typically printed on high-quality paper, such as rag paper or watercolor paper. Paintings, on the other hand, can be painted on any type of paper, including newsprint, canvas, or wood. Ink: Lithographs are printed with ink that is specifically designed for lithography. This ink is water-based and has a high viscosity, which means that it is thick and does not flow easily. Paintings, on the other hand, can be painted with any type of paint, including oil paint, acrylic paint, or watercolor paint. Printing process: Lithographs are printed using a process called intaglio printing. This process involves pressing the plate against the paper in a very controlled manner. Paintings, on the other hand, are painted by hand, and there is no such control over the application of paint. Texture: Lithographs typically have a smooth, even texture. Paintings, on the other hand, can have a variety of textures, depending on the type of paint and brushstrokes used. Signature: Lithographs are typically signed by the artist. Paintings, on the other hand, are not always signed. Examining the Surface One of the key ways to differentiate between a lithograph and a painting is by examining the surface closely. Lithographs typically have a flat, smooth texture with even ink distribution. Due to the nature of the printing process, the lines and colors in lithographs tend to be more uniform and consistent. In contrast, paintings often exhibit varied textures, visible brushstrokes, and an overall three-dimensional quality. The presence of texture is a strong indicator of an original painting. Inspecting the Signature Another important aspect to consider is the presence of an artist's signature. In most cases, lithographs are signed in pencil, usually at the bottom margin, while paintings are typically signed in paint directly on the artwork itself. Examining the signature can provide valuable insights into the authenticity and origin of the piece. Additionally, lithographs may have edition numbers or impressions indicating the total number of prints made from the original plate. Assessing the Color Saturation Color saturation is another distinguishing factor between lithographs and paintings. Lithographs tend to have more consistent color saturation throughout the print, with an absence of subtle variations that are commonly seen in paintings. Paintings, on the other hand, often exhibit subtle color shifts, gradients, and nuanced tonal variations, showcasing the artist's hand in mixing and applying the pigments. Considering the Frame and Glass The framing and glass used can also provide clues about whether you're looking at a lithograph or a painting. Paintings are usually framed with a mat and glass, which helps protect the artwork and enhance its presentation. In contrast, lithographs are typically framed without glass, as the glass can cause unwanted reflections and interfere with viewing the image. Moreover, lithographs are often mounted directly on the backing board to prevent any damage caused by the pressure of the glass. Conclusion Distinguishing between a lithograph and a painting requires a keen eye and understanding of the key differences in technique, materials, and characteristics. By examining the surface, signature, color saturation, and framing, you can confidently identify whether you are looking at a painting or a Lithograph.
Singapore Art and Artists: Exploring the Rich Cultural Tapestry and Creative Expression
Singapore is a vibrant city-state that has a thriving arts and culture scene. Over the years, Singapore has seen the emergence of numerous talented artists who have made significant contributions to the local and international art scene. In recent years, the art scene in Singapore has experienced significant growth and development, further solidifying its position as a vibrant cultural hub. Here's a glimpse into Singapore's art and artists: Art Movements in Singapore: Compared to European and other Asian counterparts, Art is relatively young in Singapore and driven mainly by the many cultures and traditions that make up Singapore society. What makes Singaporean Art more distinct is the merging of Chinese, Malay and European Art forms with a blend of localised cultural heritage, indigenous beliefs and popular practices in Singapore. Here is an overview of the key periods and milestones in the history of visual art in Singapore: Early Art Influences (Pre-19th Century): Before the 19th century, Singapore was primarily a trading port, and the cultures of the Malay Archipelago, China, India, and the West predominantly influenced art. Traditional art forms, such as batik, sculpture, and calligraphy, were practised by local artisans. Colonial Influence (19th-early 20th century): The arrival of British colonial rule in the 19th century brought Western influences to Singapore. European artists and art teachers introduced academic art practices, such as oil painting and portraiture, to local students. Notable artists during this period include Raffles Institution founder Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles and his wife, Sophia Raffles. Nanyang Style and Cultural Identity (mid-20th century): In the 1950s, a significant art movement known as the Nanyang Style emerged in Singapore. Led by four master artists of the time, Liu Kang, Chen Wen Hsi, Georgette Chen and Cheong Soo Pieng, this movement combined Chinese ink painting techniques with Western art styles, creating a distinctive fusion. The Nanyang Style was a form of cultural expression exploring the identity of the Southeast Asian region and its people. Modern Art Society (mid-20th century): In the 1960s, the Modern Art Society was established, advocating for modern art practices and promoting local artists. This period marked a shift towards experimentation and exploring abstract and conceptual art forms. Artists like Lim Yew Kuan and Anthony Poon were instrumental in driving the development of modern art in Singapore. Contemporary Art and Global Recognition (late 20th century-present): In the late 20th century, Singapore's art scene continued to evolve and embrace contemporary art practices. The opening of institutions like the Singapore Art Museum (SAM) in 1996 and the National Gallery Singapore in 2015 provided platforms for local and international contemporary artists. Singapore's participation in international art events, such as the Venice Biennale and the Singapore Biennale, further propelled its global recognition. Most Notable Artists of Singapore Singapore has been home to many prominent Artists continuously gaining International reputations. Here are some of the most notable and significant artists from the city-state of Singapore Georgette Chen (1906-1993) was a Chinese-born Singaporean painter known for her realistic portraits and landscapes. She is considered one of the pioneers of modern art in Singapore and a key figure of the "Nanyang School" of Art. She had spent much of her early life in China, France and New York, before making Singapore her home in the year 1954 to spend later years of her life. GEORGETTE CHEN, BOATS AND SHOPHOUSES , (credit: Sotheby's) Chen Wen Hsi (1906-1991) was a Chinese-born Singaporean painter known for his lyrical landscapes and portraits. Similar to other prominent artists Chen Wen Hsi, had spent a good part of his life in China before making Singapore his permanent home. He along with four other prominent artists founded the Nanyang Style of Painting in the year 1953, creating a watershed moment for the Singapore Art scene. In 1964 he was awarded with the "Public Service Star" award. One of his paintings "Two Gibbons Amidst Vines", addorns the back of every $50 note of Singapore. The gibbons are there not only to beautify the note but they also signify a great artist who contributed his entire whole life to the art world. Cheong Soo Pieng (1917-1983) was another prominent Chinese-born Singaporean painter known for his abstract paintings. He along with Chen Wen Hsi, Georgette Chen and Liu Kang founded the Nanyang style of art, one of the most important movements of Singapore's cultural History. After migrating to Singapore in 1946, he took up Art teaching at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, and began his fervent amalgamation of Western and Chinese pictorial styles. Best known for his stylized depictions of Malay and Balinese women, he worked in a unique aesthetic that blended Hindu, Chinese, and Modernist European influences. Lim Tze Peng (born 1921) is a Singaporean painter known for his Chinese ink paintings. He is considered one of the most influential artists of his generation in Singapore. His masterpieces have been exhibited in many local and international exhibitions and prominent art centers in Singapore, including the Singapore Art Museum and Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts.. Hundred and two years old Mr Lim currently is the oldest living Artist of Singapore and was awarded the Cultural Medallion in 2003 for his vast contributions to the Art and Culture of the Country. LIM TZE PENG (courtesy South China Morning Post) Amanda Heng (born 1951): Amanda Heng is a contemporary artist known for performing art and installations. She often addresses issues of gender, identity, and social norms in her works and has exhibited her art internationally. She rose to pominance in the 1990's and is considered a pioneer of Performance Arts in Singapore. She is among the first Singaporean Artists to win the distinguished Benesse Prize and also awarded Cultural Medallion for Visual Arts in 2010. Among the many firsts that she brought to the Art scene in Singapore, includes the founding of the Artists Village in 1988 and then later in 1999 she formed the Women in The Arts (WITA) Collective, the first Artists run collective in Singapore. Tan Swie Han (born 1943) Born in Indonesia Tan Swie Han is a Singaporean multi-disciplinary Artist who migrated from Indonesia in 1946 and is known for his Chinese calligraphy and Contemporary Art Sculptures. He is also distinguished as being the most expensive artist in Singapore after he sold his painting "Moon is Orbed" for S$3.7M in the year 2012 and later again broke his own record by selling his ink on rice-paper artwork "Bada Shanren" for S$4.4M. Tan Swie Han (courtesy Straits Times) Yeo Shih Yun (born 1976): Yeo Shih Yun is a Singaporean artist known for her abstract ink paintings. She combines traditional Chinese ink painting techniques with contemporary approaches, creating bold and expressive artworks reflecting her experiences and emotions. Jane Lee (born 1963): Jane Lee is a contemporary artist known for her experimental approach to painting. She often uses unconventional materials such as epoxy paint and polyurethane foam to create textured and multi-dimensional artworks that challenge traditional notions of painting. Lee has toyed with the painting structure to create rich and tactile abstract works that frequently combine two into three dimensions. These are just a few examples of the many talented artists from Singapore who have significantly contributed to the local and international art scene. The art scene in Singapore continues to evolve and grow, with new artists constantly emerging and pushing the boundaries of artistic expression. Head on to our curated collection Inspired-By-Singapore with a selection of works created by Artists worldwide that could illustrate different sides of Singapore's cultural diversity. Part of this collection is a selection of paintings by the Australian artist Dean O'Callaghan painted and inspired by Singapore's cityscapes and exclusively available on RtistiQ.
Exploring the Intricate Techniques of Islamic Art
Islamic art is a rich and diverse artistic expression shaped by centuries of cultural and religious influences. From calligraphy to geometric patterns, this guide explores Islamic art's various styles and techniques and how they have evolved over time. What are Islamic Art styles and techniques in the contemporary art market? Islamic Art encompasses various styles and techniques, some of which have been adapted and incorporated into contemporary art markets. Here are some examples: Calligraphy: Islamic calligraphy is one of the most recognisable art forms in the world. It involves the writing of Quranic verses or other Islamic phrases in a decorative way. Contemporary artists have experimented with this style by incorporating it into paintings, sculptures, and installations. Calligraphy is also used to decorate buildings, textiles, and other objects, and is often combined with other forms of Islamic art, such as geometric patterns and floral motifs. The beauty of calligraphy lies in its ability to convey meaning and emotion through the careful arrangement of letters and words. Geometric patterns: Geometric patterns are common in Islamic Art and are often used to decorate mosques and other religious buildings. Contemporary artists have also incorporated these patterns into their work, creating modern pieces rooted in Islamic tradition. Some common geometric shapes used in Islamic art include circles, squares, triangles, and stars. These shapes are often combined to create intricate and mesmerizing patterns that are both beautiful and meaningful. Miniature painting: Miniature painting is a traditional Islamic art form that involves creating small, detailed paintings on paper or other surfaces. Contemporary artists have continued to use this technique, often with a modern twist, creating works that are both intricate and innovative. Metalwork: Islamic metalwork is known for its intricate designs and detailed craftsmanship. Contemporary artists have continued to use metalworking techniques to create modern pieces that are both functional and aesthetically pleasing. Ceramics: Islamic ceramics are often decorated with intricate patterns and designs. Contemporary artists have continued to use this technique, creating modern ceramics that are both beautiful and functional. Islamic art styles and techniques have a rich history that inspires contemporary artists worldwide. By blending traditional Islamic techniques with modern styles and materials, these artists are creating a new and exciting form of Art that celebrates both the past and present. The influence of nature and floral motifs Nature and floral motifs are also commonly found in Islamic art. These motifs are often used to symbolize growth, renewal, and the beauty of the natural world. Islamic artists often use stylized versions of flowers, leaves, and vines in their designs, incorporating them into geometric patterns or using them as standalone elements. The use of nature and floral motifs in Islamic art reflects the importance of nature in Islamic culture and the belief in the interconnectedness of all living things. Working across various disciplines, Mobeen Akhtar details her fondness for arabesque by using natural pigments extracted from minerals, rocks and earth as she aims to practise the traditional methods so they may be recognised and enjoyed today, as they were in the past. The role of color and symmetry in Islamic art Color and symmetry are two important elements in Islamic art. The use of vibrant colors, such as blues, greens, and reds, is common in Islamic art and is often used to create a sense of harmony and balance. Symmetry is also a key feature of Islamic art, with many designs featuring intricate geometric patterns that are perfectly balanced on both sides. This symmetry is believed to reflect the order and balance found in the natural world and is a reflection of the Islamic belief in the unity and harmony of all things. Is Islamic Art a religious-only Art? Islamic Art is not solely religious but strongly connects to the Islamic faith and culture. Islamic Art encompasses various artistic forms and styles, including calligraphy, geometric patterns, miniatures, textiles, ceramics, metalwork, and architecture. Multiple cultures and regions have influenced these art forms throughout Islamic history and have been used for religious and secular purposes. Islamic Art can be found in various settings, from religious spaces like mosques and madrasas to secular areas like homes, palaces, and public buildings. In addition, Islamic Art has been appreciated and collected by people of various faiths and cultures throughout history. While Islamic Art often incorporates Islamic themes and motifs, it is not limited to religious subjects. Many Islamic artists throughout history have drawn inspiration from the natural world, human figures, and other non-religious subjects. In contemporary Art, Islamic art styles and techniques continue to inspire artists of all backgrounds and beliefs. By blending traditional Islamic techniques with modern styles and materials, these artists are creating a new and exciting form of Art that celebrates both the past and present. Is Islamic Art only practised by Muslims? Islamic Art has its roots in the Islamic faith and culture, but it is not limited to only Muslims. Islamic Art encompasses various artistic forms and styles, including calligraphy, geometric patterns, miniatures, textiles, ceramics, metalwork, and architecture. Multiple cultures and regions have influenced these art forms throughout Islamic history, and they have been appreciated and practised by people of different faiths and backgrounds. Many non-Muslim artists and artisans have contributed to the development of Islamic Art throughout history. In medieval Spain, for instance, Christian and Jewish artists worked alongside Muslim artisans to create some of the most stunning examples of Islamic Art and architecture. And in modern times, many contemporary artists and designers from diverse backgrounds have been inspired by Islamic Art and its techniques, incorporating them into their works. Furthermore, many Islamic art forms have been used for religious and secular purposes. Islamic architecture, for example, is often used for public buildings and private homes, regardless of the faith or background of the owner. Similarly, Islamic calligraphy and geometric patterns are often used in various artistic and decorative contexts, from book design to interior decoration. Final Thoughts! In conclusion, Islamic art is a form of art that is enjoyed by people of all backgrounds, cultures, and faiths. Its beauty and significance can be appreciated by anyone with an appreciation for art and culture. Head on to a very special collection of Islamic Art from Artists across different part of the world on RtistiQ - https://art.rtistiq.com/en/collections/cultural-festivity-collection