“Art is meditation”
‘Bobo Ji’ popularly known as grandma or elder sister in Dogri language is a character that’s confined to suburban areas but a self taught painter of Udhampur, Medhavi Sharma has created a similar fictional character by blending Pahari paintings of Basohli with modern day art to re-live lost memories and embed cultural ethos in our ever degrading values.
This illusory first appeared in her paintings in 2019 showing Bobo preparing Kimb and Gheur (Local delicacies, arranging Pugga Thali (Traditional festival), making Kaleere (Wedding ornaments), giving a head message to her granddaughter (a household chores) and even sanitising her hands in times of pandemic.
Along with Bobo Ji came to life many supporting characters that were the end result of an art form that Medhavi created by blending famous Basohli paintings with modern day art. This is how she gave wings to her creation Bobo Ji who now keeps on advising people on different local issues and celebrating festivals in most traditional way. Her attire, home decor, festivals, messages and advices come in pure Dogra culture and touch the very core of viewers making them get connected to their roots in much better manner. This is something similar to Gene Deitch of Prague, Czech Republic who had created Tom and Jerry and died on April 16, 2020.
Having remained a student of Basohli paintings, Medhavi, who’s pursuing her Masters from National Institute of Design (NID) Ahmadabad, started painting since her childhood. For, Medhavi, painting was always her first priority and today when she has proved her mettle by winning various competitions including international gold medal in 2005, international best child artist award by Korasala Wonder Art Village, Andhra Pradesh and inter college fashion show as a designer, she intends to take her art to next level by starting an institute in her home town, may be in few years.
While learning Basohli miniature paintings from her teacher S S Bloria, Medhavi came to know that detailing in this type of art consumes a lot of time and needs precision to the core. She experimented with another form of art and used only outer sketches of Basohli paintings and not the inner details. She drew sketches characterised by receding foreheads, high nose and prominent lotus like eyes. To this she added bright colours of modern day art and completed her paintings. This way she not only simplified her art form but also provided herself an opportunity to say stories and folklores through her blend-art character Bobo.
Like Basohli paintings where vigorous use of primary colours and a peculiar facial formula prevails, Medhavi’s works are also vigorous, bold and imaginative which at first sight remind one of Pahari art. The only difference between the two is that characters in Medhavi’s art are from local folklore and painted in plain and bright colours but all figures remain that of Basohli style. “To become a painter one needs passion, child’s heart and curiosity”, she revealed while explaining how she painted Maharaja Ranjit Singh applying Tilak on Gulab Singh at Akhnoor before his coronation ceremony, Rutt Rahre, Kud dance and portrait of Dogri folk singer Haji Ghulam Mohammad Dansalia.
An engineering graduate, Medhavi has no immediate plans to work for money. For her it is painting and drawing and just being an artist. She, during her childhood too had made up her mind to just be an artist and this is the reason that despite having done her engineering Medhavi chose to pursue design in NID. For several years, Medhavi had been sketching, painting, doodling, designing logos and painting walls around the theme of Dogra culture where her character Bobo Ji is a home-maker and possessed by a kind spirit. She’s a cook, story teller and loves to narrate incidents to her daughter Durga, another character created by this young artist from the town of river Devika.
Well before using water colours on white paper comes the part where imagination helps her to visualize what she wants to express with the painting and especially what she intends to say to society through her character. “I imagine, draw sketch, colour it and add moods to the character. A typical image with feelings and expressions emerges out there on the canvas that conveys our cultural ethos”, she said adding that these are the elements or prerequisites for any good painting.
Having keen interest in film, animation and ceramics, the Udhampur girl believes that discussions on the subject bring strength, innovation and concentration in her while painting. Working for late hours in studio, when Medhavi gets the idea stuck in her mind she begins to paint relentlessly and comes out with the artwork sometimes even in a day or just few hours. Having held many group exhibitions, today Medhavi’s artwork is making rounds on social media including Twitter and Facebook where she’s gathering accolades for every work that she posts.
Having sketched Amar Mahal Museum and painted other iconic places, she believes Jammu has immense potential for work and to showcase art. Her character Durga has also been showcased in animation and while painting Basohli art. Medhavi, in recent days has painted Corona virus warriors including doctors and nurses. Her other characters that she has painted include Lambardar of village, Bobo Ji getting nostalgic to see her wedding album, Bobo Ji visiting Mansar lake and feeding fish, children celebrating Lohri and Bobo Ji churning butter in typical village style life.
A village scene where women are gossiping or an aged person walking along a wall full of textile prints besides other such works were highly appreciated by many. Her one large painting of Lord Krishna besides designing of a logo for Open Defecation Free (ODF) Udhampur and Back to Village (B2V) also earned her many accolades. Motifs, Dogra attires and anything that connects people with Dogra culture attracts her and motivates her to paint.
Regretting poor support from government and people not valuing the artwork to its full potential, she believes that Jammu and Kashmir is yet to rise to the occasion. Despite such low points she had all praise for Deputy Commissioner, Udhampur Dr Piyush Singla who is an art lover and had always been promoting budding artists. Having designed logos and painted walls as part of decorative works, she had received accolades and made a mark in her hometown. She, however believes that the kind of appreciation artists deserve in Jammu and Kashmir is still missing.
“It takes for an artist days and even weeks to complete their works, they stay engaged all the time to show creativity, face challenging times and yet don’t get the price for their works that they actually deserve”, she regretted. Artists, according to her are reflections of society and must be respected and their work given due recognition. Having keen interest to promote craft works like kathua weaving centres or Basholi shawls she sought help for these artisans whose work has travelled across the length and breadth of world.
Amrita Sher Gill and Raja Ravi Verma are her ideals. Medhavi has also remained a NCC cadet and represented state in Republic day camp at Delhi in 2009. Her work was displayed at 9th International Artist Residency Champaran Art Festival held at Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts. “The education in NID has made me even more sensitive about indigenous crafts and the need to preserve, promote and celebrate them. I have been continuing my work on stories of Duggar Pradesh and intend to create a local self sustaining ecosystem of craft practises in Jammu”, she said.
Keen on reviving indigenous craft of Calico Printing for which Samba was quite famour, she said that this town was known for hand printed textiles. It was popularly called as Chhintawala Shehar (city of printing). Samba was famous for its calico printing, mostly on hand-woven cotton sheets in soothing vegetables hues at a time when the printing industry in many other parts of India had not developed. She believes that revival of this industry will not only generate employment but also revive the dying art.
“I also visited Basohli and met artists who still work in the field of Basohli painting. I also visited families that still do handloom weaving of Pashmina shawls. I aspire to give back to my motherland by boosting its art and craft scenario”, she aid adding that being an ardent dreamer who’d romanticise everything from a flickering earthen lamp to a beautiful sunrise, Art can be channelized for creating fire in anyone. Art, to Medhavi is more than vibrant brushstrokes on canvas and is a meditation.