Initially lured into The Drawing Room, a gallery on Newtown Lane in East Hampton, by their Jennifer Bartlett exhibition signage, I was surprised to find myself more intrigued by what was downstairs: a jewel-like show of miniature paintings by Contemporary Rajashtani artist Raja Ram Sharma. The above painting is one example of a room full of exquisite pictures created with single-strand brushes using a 17th century technique which Sharma was trained in and adapted within his own artistic expression. As relayed in the gallery’s press release, the artist is currently living in Udaipur and also works as a painter of pichwai, the “cloth paintings hung as offerings behind the image of the deity in Hindu temples.”
What is striking about this group of paintings is that while the process would be, to me, painstaking to say the least, there is an air of lightness to them, as if the artist himself was truly enjoying each little microscopic application of paint. There is a softness that subtly evokes a spiritual state of being without any overt narrative. The perspective, flat with the impression of everything falling towards you or towards the bottom edge, somewhat calls to mind the late 15th century illuminated manuscript Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, which depicts the month of June and is quite familiar to us Medieval criticism bookish types (get a ticket and stand on line!) as being the cover of Umberto Eco’s Art and Beauty in the Middle Ages.
Similarly to this Book of Hours example, Raja Ram Sharma’s Study III, 2012, utilizes line and color to create simultaneous movement and balance. As the river curves down to the lower edge of the pictorial plane we are stopped by two bright red boats, their oars pointed diagonally back upward to the temple above whereby we can begin to make our way back down the river, thus going around and around in a circle for as long as one pleases, stopping and starting at any point. Along the way, the eye is tempted to slow down and observe the little brushstrokes, if one can use the word so freely. My Post-postmodernist art history professors would be cringing at my description of the eye’s actions but in this instance it seems appropriate and accurate, as there seems to be a devotional quality to the work; a person might be brought into it only through a slowing down of the eye and through the aforementioned circular movement.
The show is up until October 29, 2012.
Raja Ram Sharma image courtesy of: www.drawing-room.gallery.com