heading-media coverage.jpg (30987 bytes)

The Daily Yomiuri

Thursday September 5, 2002

Combining Indian Themes with Japanese Nihonga
When artist Madhu Jain's husband was assigned to work as a Minister in the Indian Embassy in Tokyo in 1994, it was to prove a fortuitous opportunity for her.

She threw herself into the task of learning Japanese, and also studying traditional Japanese arts, including Bonsai and Ikebana. But the art that appealed most to Jain was Nihonga paintings, created according to traditional Japanese conventions and techniques that use traditional and natural materials.

When Jain arrived in Japan she was working mainly in oils and acrylics but, she says, "My love for nature and my environmental awareness found a strong attraction to this medium."

Nihonga are often painted on silk or washi using pigments made from such substances as shells corals, semi precious stones and even gold and silver. "I had never, ever seen so many colors." Jain says.

She studied Nihonga with Japanese artists during the four years she stayed in Japan, learning the complicated techniques. Instead of adhereing to traditional conventions, however, she took the traditional techniques and used them in portraying typically Indian scenes, in a novel and well received style.

During her time in Japan, numerous showings of her paintings were held and even after her return to India she continued to paint in the Nihonga style. For the past six years, she has been chosen as one of the artists to exhibit at the prestigious Nikaten, a yearly exhibition held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Tokyo.

In addition, in1998 a solo exhibition of her paintings was sponsored by the Rajasthan government on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of India's independence in her hometown of Jaipur.

This month, Jain returns to Tokyo for a new exhibition in commemoration of the 50 years of diplomatic relations between Japan and India. The exhibition is to be held at the Indian Embassy Auditorium, beginning Friday and running through Sep 12. The title of the exhibition `Folk Expressions' reflects the main themes of the folklife, deserts and festivals of Rajasthan. She portrays everything form baby elephants and royal palaces to donkeys and flowers from her own garden.

Jain says," Nihonga is an obsession for me, a unique challenge. It has brought me closer to my second love- nature." She feels that the brilliance of the pigments is particularly effective in illuminating the bright colors of her home city.

Nihonga she says," has also been a way to bridge the differing cultures of Japan and India. "During my exhibitions," Jain says, " when viewers appreciate my work, we sometimes engage in discussion about a particular subject I have painted. Very often, we discover that Indians and Japanese have a great common heritage and very many similar traditions."

For Jain," her experiments with nihonga have been a major aesthetic experience, if not always an easy one. "At times," she says, "I have struggled late into the night to bring about the desired effect, layering the pigments of various gradations and textures and patiently waiting for them to dry. When, suddenly, I see the subject emerge with unique brilliance against a subtle contrasting background that the ultimate satisfaction-like communing with God."

top of page.gif (2213 bytes)