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Saturday 29 May to Sunday 4 July 2004

Krishna and the gopis, circa 1980s, Bihar, Madhubani

The rich heritage of Indian visual traditions is explored in an exhibition of Indian folk painting and textiles at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. The exhibition will be on view from 29 May to 4 July.

Drawn from the Gallery's own collection and works loaned from private collections, this exhibition explores the diverse pictorial expressions of artists who work outside the prescribed canons of mainstream art practice. These artists remain largely anonymous.

This exhibition encompasses a variety of work including vibrant narrative scrolls painted by itinerant storytellers and bards who recite the stories recorded in their paintings at village fairs and bazaars. Related to this tradition is a large painted cloth depicting the story of the Rajasthani folk hero Pabuji. Pabuji is worshipped by the nomadic Rabari people of Western India. Cloth paintings of this type are painted by unnamed shaman-priest-bards known as bhopo. As the Rabaris do not have a specific temple, the bhopo bring the temple to the people through these portable paintings, called phad. These paintings are in themselves sacred.

Other works which relate to popular religion include a variety of pilgrimage paintings - paintings of the Hindu gods and goddesses from temple sites in Bengal, Orissa and Rajasthan. These types of paintings are bought by devotees at the bazaars outside these temples as souvenirs of their visit to these sacred sites.

The various painting traditions of India's tribal (adivasi) peoples forms another aspect of this exhibition. Paintings from the Warli people of Maharashtra and from the village artists of Hazaribagh in Bihar record and celebrate village life and the seasonal and agricultural cycles.

Works from the Mithila region in Bihar are lively, colourful paintings depicting scenes from folk legends and Hindu mythology. The paintings from this region first came to the world's attention when aid workers in this very poor, drought-stricken region of India encouraged these traditional artists to transfer their work from the mud walls of their village huts to paper, as a means of generating income.

Also included in this exhibition are a variety of pictorial textiles - wedding shawls and canopies, decorative hangings and embroidered quilts - all of which describe the translation of the images of daily life into complex and intricate designs.

Indian Folk Paintings and Textiles has been curated by Haema Sivanesan, Assistant Curator of Asian Art at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, and Jim Masselos, retired Honorary Reader in History at the University of Sydney.

Exhibition Talk
Jim Masselos will give a talk in the exhibition on Wednesday 2 June at 1pm.
Free, no bookings required.

Storytelling sessions
Free storytelling sessions will be held in conjunction with the exhibition at 11.30am on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 8 June to 1 July.

On view:Saturday 29 May to Sunday 4 July 2004
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Art Gallery Road
The Domain, Sydney 2000, Australia
Telephone:Telephone (02) 9225 1744 or
recorded information (02) 9225 1790
Nationwide tollfree 1800 679 278
Hours:Hours 7 days a week, 10am to 5pm
(closed Christmas Day and Easter Friday)
Art After Hours - until 9pm every Wednesday
Admission:Admission Free
Media Information and Interviews:Jan Batten, Press Office
Telephone (02) 9225 1791 or 0418 279 348

IMAGE CREDIT: Krishna and the gopis, circa 1980s, India - Bihar, Madhubani. Collection Art Gallery of New South Wales. Gift of Claudia Hyles 1999.