Thursday, November 5, 2015

Phad Paintings

                   "It's important for the explorer to be willing to be led astray."
                                                                                                            --Roger von Oech

                Most of you who have been reading my explorative blog posts would have seen my recent past post on Jaipur Blue pottery. In true explorative intent, that journey took me to discovering Phad Paintings. Here I was meandering through the internet learning and absorbing when I chance upon this form of painting called Phad Paintings. I had never heard or seen Phad paintings before. “Not all who wander are lost”, a well-fitting quote came to mind. Well! What a treat. I just had to put my other projects aside and get straight down to attempting this. It was absolutely a pleasure discovering this art form.   
           
              Though not so well known, Phad paintings originated in 1629. Rajasthan’s Phad paintings are unique ethnic paintings painted on long pieces of cloth called ‘Phad’. The paintings are panoramic scroll paintings usually large, about 15-30 feet, done in vibrant colors highlighting the deeds of heroes, deities and gods, and legends and stories of erstwhile maharajas.

             The Bhopas, the priest-singers traditionally carry the painted phads along with them and use these as mobile temples of the folk deities. The paintings depicting exploits of local deities are often carried from place to place and are accompanied by traditional singers, who narrate the theme depicted on the scrolls. Phad paintings bear the task of representing a complex and extensive folk narrative which is achieved through a very specific style of representation, filled with figures and pictorial incidents, these paintings form a kind of dramatic backdrop to epic storytelling. They are customarily opened or unrolled only after sundown, when people gathered for an all-night performance.

            These paintings are magnificent in their minute detail work. The outlines are drawn in bold black and filled with colors. The outlines of the figures are also first drawn in black and later filled with colors. Every available inch is crowded with figures. A unique feature is the two dimensional flat treatment of the figures and the stacked scene construction of the paintings. The canvas is incongruously filled with figures and different scenes are depicted in separated blocks. The scale of the figure depends on the social status and importance of the character they represent and the role they play in the story. Another interesting feature is that the figures in the paintings do not face the audience, rather they face each other.

            The colors used are natural colors extracted from vegetables, fruits, and flowers. A multi chromatic color palette is a significant characteristic of phad paintings. For example: orange symbolizes physical might and power of the hero, yellow to signify golden ornaments, red for clothes on the characters, green for foliage, blue for water, and general narrative is done in grey.

            Most famous heroes depicted in these folk style paintings and songs are Goga Chauhan, Prithviraj Chauhan, Amar Singh Rathore, Papuji Ramdevji and Dev Narainji.

So here it is...My own hand drawn original Phad Painting!!



             For my attempt of Phad paintings, though mine would technically be called drawings, I tried to stay as true to the original Phad paintings as possible and I did not take much creative liberty with this project. I did practice drawing the figures several several times. The faces of the figures are almost the same and made drawing a practiced repetition. I would have liked to have drawn the figures a little bigger especially in the larger canvas as it would have made drawing a little easier. But I was using an un-erasable pen and there was no going back. Nevertheless I managed to give the figures a lot of detail. I liked the drawings without color too as it highlighted the details and intricacies of the line drawings. But I love the colored look too. So I made another one…sort of as an accompaniment to the big one. The large canvas is 12'' by 24" and the smaller one is 11' by 14". In the big one you see the princess bride with her bridal procession and in the smaller one you see the king going to receive his bride. To finish and tie-in both the canvases, I painted a yellow and red border as is customarily seen in Phad paintings. 



































                    I have loved this exploration journey that I undertook this year and I do have a few more projects that I will be attempting and sharing with you. Many of the projects that I tried; I have known, seen, read about, and heard of before; but in exploring them, I began at the very beginning and I learnt, enjoyed, and more significantly experienced these art forms firsthand, all over again in a new and personal way. What else can be a greater reward for our journeys.


Credits for my material: