Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Depictions of Vishnu : "An Exclusive Expression of Indian Mythology"

Several of the paintings and drawings I recently exhibited in Kolkata, India depict statues of Lord Vishnu, one of the most significant Hindu deities.

Lord Vishnu’s role is that of protector and preserver of the universe. He is a gentle, omnipresent god who is believed to have descended to earth at least nine times in order to save the world from evil and restore balance.

Vishnu I
48 x 36 inches
acrylic on hand blocked fabric

In sacred texts, Vishnu is described as having a dark complexion like water-filled clouds. He is often depicted as a pale blue being in paintings, as are his incarnations Rama and Krishna.

Vishnu’s incarnations, known as avatars, have taken animal and human forms. A tenth incarnation is yet to come. The main focus of the statues depicted in these paintings is Vishnu, not as an avatar, but in his primary spirit form.

Four-Armed Vishnu
30” x 20” image
conte and acrylic on paper printed with metallic ink

Vishnu's stance in the image above is stiff and rigidly formal in the samapada (feet together) pose. Shri Devi and Bhu Devi stand on either side in sensual, curving contrappostoIn many instances, as seen here, Vishnu's wife the goddess Lakshmi manifests as two separate goddesses, Shri Devi denotes energy and Bhu Devi represents fertility.

Vishnu II
48 x 36 inches
acrylic on hand blocked fabric

Depictions of Vishnu adhere to a set system of iconography. Vishnu is represented as a human male with four arms symbolizing his power. The arms in front relate to his activity in the physical world while the rear arms signify Vishnu’s power in the spiritual world. As a symbol of his sovereignty, Vishnu wears a crown. The two earrings worn symbolize opposites inherent in creation.

This Vishnu is elegant in its simplicity and graceful proportions. The broad shouldered figure is softly modeled. His fleshy face has a serene expression with eyes almost closed. Along with a tall cylindrical crown, Vishnu wears armbands, bracelets, necklace and a belt but appears nearly nude as the transparent drapery covering his legs is his only garment. 

Vishnu with Attendants
26” x 20” image
conte on paper

He holds a conch in his forward left hand and a war discus in his rear left. The conch shell he holds is a symbol of the sound of creation. The discus is a weapon reminding the devotee that Vishnu protects the world from evil.

A lotus in his right front hand represents divine spiritual perfection and purity. 

Vishnu also holds a mace (gada) in his right rear hand which signifies divine power in addition to the conch (shankha), lotus (padma), and discus or chakra.

These two sculptures (in the Southeast Asian Collection of the Art Institute of Chicago) served as inspiration for the four artworks above. A simple aureole backs both statues carved in high relief. 

Another statue of Vishnu from the same collection was my model for the mixed media drawing below.

God Vishnu Riding on His Mount, Garuda
26” x 20” image
conte & acrylic on printed paper

All of the paintings and drawings above are for sale. Price available upon request. I am able to supply higher resolution images to interested buyers. If inquiring, please leave a comment with your email address. I will immediately contact you and hide your info from public view.
Or email me at Cynthia.S.Hayes (at) gmail (dot) com 

Monday, February 22, 2016

An Exclusive Expression of Indian Mythology - Part 1 (of 3): Preparations

Finally I am in India at Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport after a very long flight.  It is a relief to find that the roll of paintings brought as checked luggage has also arrived in Kolkata. 

This trip and exhibition would not have been possible without a generous grant from the Greater Milwaukee Foundation's Mary L. Nohl Suitcase Export Fund for Visual Art. I am grateful for this exciting opportunity to have a solo show of my artwork abroad!

I came a few days early to approve the brochure design. It is more elaborate than I had imagined and will be printed on beautiful paper.

Now to get the work ready. Thirty pieces need to be framed...

The roll of paintings is unwrapped at the Anjan Art Framing workshop. Stretchers must be constructed and sixteen large canvases stretched before they can be framed. 

Fourteen drawings will be matted and framed under glass at this table. Anjan, Ayan Mukherjee and their crew have a week to complete all this work. As we discuss framing style options, they seem experienced and knowledgable. I leave them with some archival quality mounting tape and the directions that they may not under any circumstances cut or glue down any of the work. Now I must trust that they will be careful, and do no irreversible harm to the paintings and drawings. 

I enjoy the warmth on a sunny January morning the day of the opening reception as I wait for the doors of the Academy of Fine Arts, Kolkata to open.

Three hours before the inaugural ceremony, the gallery walls are still bare. YIKES. The gallery staff assure me that this is the way they always hang shows and that everything will get done.

The framed paintings are delivered to the gallery just in time...

Rapidly the paintings are shuffled around the room, arranged  and rearranged. Finally the spacing, and placement looks right.

Can all these pieces be hung and the lighting adjusted before the doors open? I really hope so. My job is done. Now it is time to let the gallery staff go to work...

As the paintings go up, the sound crew delivers and installs the stage and speakers for the musical recital that will follow the inauguration ceremony.

Suddenly a brass lamp appears in the center of the gallery surrounded by a ring of flowers and flower petals. How exciting - I've never had one of these! It is beautiful, but I suddenly feel anxious because I'm not exactly sure what I am suppose to do with this during the ceremony...

The members of Bihaan Music and Sunam Communcations, who have organized this exhibition, take a moment to pose before the doors open.

The guest book is ready.

I'm ready too!

The next post will feature photos of the opening reception and exhibition.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

An Exclusive Expression of Indian Mythology - Part 2 (of 3) The Exhibition

At the opening reception of the exhibition, the inauguration begins. The first of the honored guest speakers is master artist Dhiraj Choudhury

Dr. T. K. Biswas, Director of the Birla Academy of Art and Culture, Kolkata is an expert in the field of Indian art history. Author of several art history books including Horse in Early Indian Art, he is the perfect person to lecture on the topic of Indian mythology in art. His talk is both informative and engaging.

Pandit Tarun Bhattacharya talks about my involvement in helping to organize Indian classical music concerts in Milwaukee with the Hindole Majumdar School of Music and Dance

Indian classical vocalist Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay speaks to the relationship of music and visual art in India, and my commitment to the classical arts.

Now each honored guest lights the lamp.

And I have a turn.

As I express appreciation for all the kind words...

I garland each speaker with the gift of a scarf.

Following the opening ceremony, everyone is seated to enjoy a wonderful Indian classical music recital by Santoor maestro Pandit Tarun Bhattacharya,


and Sri Hindole Majumdar on tabla.

The improvisational performance brilliantly suggests many moods in complex variations. To see a video of this duet performing just days earlier in Kolkata, please click this link:

The chairs are cleared away and the exhibition "An Exclusive Expression of Indian Mythology" is ready for viewing.

Ancient Indian Sculptures from the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago served as inspiration for all 30 paintings and drawings. 

The work is warmly received. 

Although the icons are traditional, viewers say the treatment is new and unique, but still reverent. 

Many express to me a feeling of pride, that a foreigner would dedicate so much effort and interest in the historical culture of India.

Some tell me they are genuinely moved spiritually. This is the greatest compliment I could receive!

Attendees examine the art closely...

Some more closely than others!

The next morning, photos from the opening reception appear in several newspapers.

"Hindustan Times" (English) Thursday, January 28, 2016:

"The Morning News" (Hindi):

"Bangla News" (Bengali). Click this link for the complete article in Bangla News 24

(Funny, I don't remember the ribbon cutting. This must be photoshopped):

It is a pleasure meeting renowned Kolkata artist Wasim Kapoor when he visits.

I also meet many artists including Goti, a group of modern painters which has a group exhibit in another gallery in the Academy of Fine Arts. 

It is a major surprise when Doordarshan Kendra, Kolkata (Government of India TV channel) arrives to interview me for a television program that airs throughout India and many other countries as well!

An article appears in "The Everyday Paper" (Bengali Paper):

I am also extensively interviewed for a thorough review in the respected English language newspaper, "The Statesman" (February 6, 2016):

An unexpected delight is meeting several of my Facebook friends for the first time in person - and becoming friends in the real world...

And of course it was great making many other new friends!