INDIA     Teacher's Guide   

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Overview of
Various Artistic Techniques

Painting and Drawing

  • Ink on paper as demonstrated by painters from Madhubani.
  • Pata chitra (pigment on rag board) is one of Orissa's major art forms. It is the painting of religious myths, legends and deities. These paintings – produced for pilgrims to the great temple of Jagannath in Puri – focus on the temple, the deities, and stories from the lives of Vishnu and his incarnations.
  • Phad (narrative paintings) are commissioned from a community of professional painters and fabric-block printers (chhipa) by a bard (bhopa). The bard sings the epic story from the painting, while playing a simple spike fiddle. His wife or child holds an oil lamp to illuminate the details as they unfold in the song. To keep the audience engaged during what can be a twelve-hour, all-night performance, the bard tells jokes and makes local references. Despite the jokes, this is a form of worship as well as entertainment, and the painting often functions as a portable temple.
  • Miniatures were originally developed during the Mughal period, and generally refer to a painting small in size, meticulously detailed, and delicate in brush work. Miniatures continue to be produced today. The colours are derived from mineral and vegetable sources.

Sculpture and Pottery

  • Pottery uses clay to produce pots on a wheel and to model figurines. In India, terracotta is the traditional clay material – partly because it can be produced with relatively low firing temperatures, making it accessible to village artisans. Porcelain, ceramics and stoneware require higher firing temperatures. All of the pieces in the exhibition are terracotta. They are not usually glazed, but glazes can sometimes be used in traditional Indian clay work.
  • Metal sculpture in India is generally produced using the lost-wax technique. This technique begins with a clay core, surrounded by a detailed wax sculpture. A layer of mud and sand is then moulded over the wax, with an opening made in this mud cover. Another thicker mud coating is then applied, forming a crucible. The object is put into a kiln, melting the original wax sculpture, which pours out, leaving behind a hollow mud impression of the wax design. Pieces of metal are then put in the crucible and the sculpture is put back into the kiln. As the metal melts, it replaces the space that was occupied by the wax. The molds are then cooled and cracked open with a hammer. Each sculpture produce using this technique is individually crafted, since there is no permanent mold.
  • Other types of sculpture are created in materials such as wood, stone, marble, wicker and papier-mâché. Many of these are not meant to be permanent, and are used in ceremonies and festivities, at the end of which they might be broken or set on fire.