Journal of Arts & Ideas, no. 30-31 (Dec 1997) p. 63.


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Producing the Sacred The Subjects of Cale

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I said, that is impossible, he is i tinning after the deer How can even he—with half closed and half open eyes run aftci the deer' (I aughs) It looks ridiculous'

—Ram Waeerkar, Amar Chitra Katha illustrator,

on being asked to depict the god Ram with a permanently meditative expression

While the revival of interest in Raja Ravi Varma over the past decade has reinstated him as a key figure in India's cultural negotiation with modernity, for the mainstream art historical narrative, Ravi Varma vs Bengal School still marks a decisive confrontation in the battle for the modern Indian imaginary ] But, in a delicious irony, the stereotypes emerging from the Bengal School's earnest explorations of the essential differences between 'eastern' and 'western' sensibilities have left perhaps their most persistent mark in the same realm of the popular where Ravi Varma met his art historical faj:e calendar art2 The Indian art style, as it is known in the calendar trade, was defined by several artists in their conversations with me in terms of 'Indian' line and decoration, as opposed to 'western' mass and form 3 It is instantly identifiable thiough its fine, florid lines and sinuous romantic nayikas^N\\^\ elongated Ajantaesque fingertips, every year there is at least one calendar rendition of the Omar Khayyam theme, inspired (now indirectly) by Abanindranath's Mughal miniature-style illustrations of the Rubay'yat And similarly, another set of options on calendar art's stylistic menu comes from modern art, exemplified by free brushstrokes, the use of knife-work in applying paint, or geometric and semi-abstract forms the using young star of the calendar industry, Venkatesh Sapar, who graduated from Bombay's Sir Jamsetji leejeebhoy (J J) School of Art in 1989, described one of his works as a 'figurative abstract'4 (Illustrations 1, 2, 3)

Numbers 30-31


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