Imagination dominates the palette of artist Badri Narayan (83), whose paintings are populated with mythical creatures. His artworks are reminiscent of folk paintings and seem to narrate epic tales and fables. Narayan, who is also a writer and an illustrator of books, is considered to be a storyteller who narrates tales through the visual and literary medium. He is notable for the fact that he was a contemporary of the Progressive Artists Group and the Bombay Group of artists, yet he chose to remain independent.
Narayan is Bangalore-based at present but Mumbai was his home for over 60 years. After a gap of six years, he is exhibiting around 50 watercolour artworks in Mumbai. On display will be vibrant images of the elephant God Ganesha, mermaids, monks, winged horses, fairies and unicorns interspersed with paintings depicting sage Vishwamitra with the apsara Menaka and a portrait depicting an ailing poet.
While the artist’s images may appear deceptively simple they are difficult to decipher. “There is no single meaning or story behind the paintings. It is up to the viewer to discover the various interpretations of the artworks. Every person can have a different perspective to the painting, each line and pattern can have different connotations and that’s the beauty of it,” he concludes.
The artist, who has won several awards including the Padma Shri in 1987, admits that he has always been fascinated by legends and mythological characters. His artworks consequently draw inspiration from the Mahabharata, Ramayana, Upanishads, Zen philosophy and Sufi teachings. Though his paintings may remind you of simpler times, Narayan observes that at the heart of the paintings lie issues that people face in day-to-day life. “Issues such as the angst of growing up and day-to-day struggles are peripheral to the paintings,” he concludes.