Art 17: From Political Satire to the Traditional Pichwai

If you’re an art lover living in Ahmedabad, then the Kanoria Centre for Arts isn’t foreign to you. Known to be home to artists from various disciplines, the Centre celebrated 33 years this weekend in true artistic style with no less than 4 art exhibits held all at the same time.

A patron of art, founder Urmila Kanoria deserves compliments for creating a one of a kind moment where connoisseurs of the city – young and the elderly as well as legends and amateurs – come together on a shared platform to celebrate and savour arts. While the Piraji Sagara exhibit was the sure highlight of the festival, the other three exhibits held its place to make the festival an all-encompassing aesthetic experience!

kanoria centre for arts (KCA)-exhibition-at-art-17

Studio Artists of KCA, hailing from around the country, put up a thought-provoking Annual Display, with over 25 artworks on exhibit.  From political satire to personal anecdotes, these artworks are varied in genre. They manage to create emotional and diverse narratives, along a political axis, while deliberating on the nature of rights and wrongs. It is interesting to see a montage of realistic, abstract and semi-realistic works, along with landscapes, portraits and figurative work done in various mediums, in the unique styles of each artist’s visual expression and technique

Intensely poetic and abstract, my personal favourites are Yogesh Ramakrishna Kamble’s dark etchings on paper. His work possesses all the traits of truly political satirist comic strips, and yet are done on old scripts, bills and even ration cards, giving them a unique appeal.


Patrimony is not a word you hear a lot, but a clear reflection of pride and heritage was evident at the Pichwai display by Kuldeepak Soni, grandson of Shilp Guru Badrinath Chitrakaar. A form of ancient narrative art, Pichwai paintings were traditionally used as backdrops for Srinathji idols, made on large pieces of fabric. Their contemporary form is smaller, but just as intricate. As the artist himself says, “There are set rules, you can see them right from the motif-making to the colour schemes. As a child, I learnt from my father and grandfather that certain colours depict certain meanings.”

The use of gold leaf is very evident in the older Pichwai paintings, but as the days and time have progressed, with them increasingly being framed and placed in houses, their sizes have decreased and the use of gold leaf has become redundant. Even though one can see a gradual shift in colours with time, the traditional technique used to tell the story of Krishna Leela is what makes Pichwai art coveted even today.

tapestry-exhibition-art-17When it comes to weaving tapestries, RP Rajen is the first name that comes to mind. A truly inimitable man with his own way of weaving, he weaves paintings and doodles onto tapestries and mats by hand. The display at Art17 included his Raza renditions, along with his own sketches incorporated into draperies. These one-of-a-kind tapestries were paintings before they were woven, making them unique. Rajen has turned weaving into a work of art, with this technique having earned him a place at Royal College of Arts, London.

Walking into a room with Rajen’s exhibits is like taking a glimpse into a private studio of an artist. The display comprised of tapestries, sketches and paintings, all framed separately. The materials used ranged from jute to pure cotton to knit cotton, along with fishing thread for the wefts. On closer inspection, you can see how these tapestries are handmade because the twists and turns that created the designs cannot be done by machines.

An amalgamation of the old and the new, the traditional and the contemporary, the three exhibits at Art17 at Kanoria Centre for Arts honoured its culture of bringing forth art to cultivate a lifestyle. There were myriad facets of art for enthusiasts to explore, with something for everyone – options aplenty to choose from. These three days were, in a way, a respite from the day to day world – a walk into a world that is pure manifestation of thoughts.


Photographs: Rajkumar Rao & Aditya Sharma
Art 17 : an all-encompasssing show of aesthetics by Kanoria
Art’s own Festival : Kanoria Centre for Arts celebrated Art ’17 in Ahmedabad

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