Imagine Lord Shiva meditating in the Mediterranean region, or the Ashok Vatika, (where Sita was held captive) transform into alpine backdrop. These are the collages that Shekhawati artists created a century ago - long before the advent of digital prints and photoshop.
Cut and Paste - an exhibition at Chatterjee and Lal, is currently showcasing many such artworks which originated in Shekhawati in the north-eastern region of Rajasthan. Locals, who worked for marwari patrons and the British colonial rulers, created this collages. “These collages were seen in traditional Marwari havelis where scenes from Indian mythology were placed in a startlingly modern setting,” explains Aditya Ruia, curator of the exhibition.
Due to their close association with their masters, the locals soon started to imbibe western thinking while maintaining their traditional cultural heritage. This is evident in the exhibits. One collage titled Shiva, for instance, has the Hindu god meditating in the Mediterranean region.
Explains Ruia, “Most of these artists worked during colonial rule. They aspired to be like their masters and slowly started to give a different dimension to collage art.” Though Shekhawati collage as an art form is fairly well-known, it hasn’t received the mass attention that it deserves, says Ruia, adding: “Through this exhibition, I wanted to showcase a piece of our history to people who haven’t heard about it.”
Currently, 29 collages out of the 200 art works that Ruia collected from old havelis in Rajasthan over two years. “It was a tedious task but the end result has been very satisfying. The initial reviews have been good. People have been very receptive about this art form, he concludes.