Mastering the art

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Mysore painting

The detailed techniques used to create Mysore- and Tanjore-style paintings allows Dr Shruthi Gangadhar of Core Dental in Wyndham, Victoria, to connect with her culture.

“I’m originally from Mysore in southern India, a place with a rich cultural heritage. In the period between the 2nd century BC and the 7th century AD, Mysore painting originated during the Vijayanagar Empire. After the fall of this empire, artists scattered all over India with many finding homes in Mysore and Tanjore. These artists incorporated local culture and regional references, creating two distinct art forms known as Mysore and Tanjore paintings. Even though both styles of painting are different, they share themes and subjects.

“I have always been inclined towards the arts. When I finished my Bachelor of Dental Surgery, I started painting in the Mysore and Tanjore style, overseen by a specialist teacher. There’s a lot of technique involved as each painting utilises defined lines and small intricate work. I find painting a great way to relax after a difficult day at work. I feel my stress levels reduce as if I’m meditating. I also believe the intense attention to detail helped me to become a better dentist.

“It’s always a struggle to find enough time to paint. One painting usually takes me around five or six months to complete. My teacher could complete a painting in a week. I feel a great sense of accomplishment when a painting is finally finished.

“The preparation before I even start is very time-consuming. Mysore and Tanjore paintings are done on a wooden board covered with cloth. It needs to be prepared with chalk powder and gum Arabic. It’s then dried in the sun and softened so the paint will stick to it. Occasionally, I’ll take the easy way and buy a canvas from an art store. It can also be expensive as 24-carat gold foil is used with these paintings. I give completed paintings to friends or to my temple. I don’t paint to make money; I’m just doing it for myself.

“It doesn’t matter how long you live in a different country—you still miss home. Painting in a traditional Indian style connects me to my culture and to my country. It also allows me to show various aspects of Indian culture and demonstrate why it’s important to me. Mysore and Tanjore paintings have a rich history coupled with an intense and complex technique. There is more than enough for me to learn, improve and master to last the rest of my life. I’ll never give it up.”

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