Melodies from a coaster
A Chennai-based artist pays tribute to women classical percussionists with striking art created on cork coasters
Painted in gradients and warm hues, draped in kanjeevaram sarees with flowers in their hair, the women featured in Off beat but in tune, Chennai-based illustrator and designer Aditi Maithreya's lockdown Instagram series, play traditional classical music percussion and wind instruments including the mridangam, jal tarang, nadaswaram, ghatam and even the kanjira. The visually stunning series pays tribute to women instrumentalists from the world of classical music.
Maithreya shares her inspiration saying, "The idea first struck me in the lockdown, when I came across a viral video of a woman jal tarang artiste, Shashikala Dani, playing Shankar Mahadevan's Breathless. I was stunned. When I visited musical concerts, it was common to see brilliant women vocalists, violinists and vainikas, but I hardly came across women instrumentalists or accompanists playing wind and percussion instruments. So, when I saw the artiste in the video, it piqued my curiosity to read more about other women who had stepped into this less-ventured territory and carved a niche for themselves."
Her research opened up a whole new world of iconic legendary women percussionists and wind instrumentalists like late Madurai MS Ponnuthayi, Latha Ramachar and Sukanya Ramgopal among others, who had not only stupefied audiences within the country but also went on to be globally acclaimed for their musical mastery.
While her project began by documenting and illustrating artistes, as time passed, her posts went into intricate details of how these instruments were made, how they produced sound and the unheard stories of intergenerational instrument makers who craft these instruments.
When asked about the choice of medium (cork coasters), she confesses that she is an art supply hoarder. "I bought the cork coasters long before the lockdown. But I have to be honest; it wasn't as easy as I presumed. While the medium certainly absorbs paint well, making colours look vibrant, but intricate detailing can be tough." Maithreya's visual stories have been collated as a part of the project with information based on secondary sources, with citations under each post.
She mentions how she had to ensure that details like the hands and fingers of the artists and important elements of the instruments had to be sketched with precision, without applying too much pressure.
"Constant redrawing and erasing can cause flaking on the coaster, leaving a hole or a dent. Most cork artistes that I came across stuck to geometric or abstract art, avoiding detailed designs. While it was difficult at first, I am happy at how it turned out."
Log on to @aditimaithreya on Instagram
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