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The Hindustan Times
Friday, February 5, 1999

A painstaking effort to revive a forgotten art

History has strange ways. An art form which travelled to Japan over a thousand years from India and thereafter fell into near oblivion here, has returned in the form of the brush wielding skills of an artiste, Madhu Jain, who picked it up in Japan on a three-and-a-half-year stint.
Nihonga - a Japanese painting style which involves the use of multi-hued rock powders derived from shells, coral and even semi-precious stones on hand-made paper - was learnt painstakingly by Ms Jain during her bureaucrat husband's tenure at the Indian Embassy in Tokyo. Paintings using similar materials, with the addition of vegetable dyes, exist in India in the caves at Ajanta and Ellora.
Ms Jain is now holding an exhibition of her Nihonga paintings "Pathar ke rang se" at the Lalit Kala Academy between Feb. 10-15. However, the Japanese character of her creations has been limited to the materials. The subject matter of almost all her paintings is the people, colour, culture and yes, camels, of her home state Rajasthan.
"I wanted to pay a tribute to my place of birth and what's more, the colours of Rajasthan imbued in the folk attire, festivals, scenic beauty and the deserts seem to come alive with the brilliance of these pigments. Also, this fusion of Nihonga technique and Indian themes is my humble effort to bring the cultures of India and Japan a step closer," Ms Jain said while speaking to The Hindustan Times at her studio.
Needless to say, a lot of pain has been taken to make the paintings which have to be done on the floor and not on the easle used for painting with acrylics and other conventional mediums. The paint - an amalgamate of the rock pigments, glue and water - has to be layered on to the paper substrate to give the range of colours and depth required to produce a unique work of art.
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