Godh: in the lap of nature

Title: Godh: in the lap of nature
Year: 2016
Artists: Ishan Khosla, Pradyumna Kumar and Pushpa Kumari and Mandy Ridley 
Medium: Screen Print on coated cotton fabric panels
Size: Each panel 188 x 106 cm 

Godh: in the lap of nature opened in Kochi during the Kochi-Muziris Biennale. The work was shown within Common Ground: the serendipitous happenstance project curated by Helen Rayment at OED Gallery from December 10th, 2016 onwards. 

Godh in Hindi means lap or the embrace of a child on a lap, a space of warm and loving security. Godh brings together four individuals to create a shared space developed from collective memories of nature from landscapes of their childhood. The plants depicted are not only representative of their lush childhood memories but create a collective playground of being in the lap of nature. This experience from an earlier time is less common in contemporary society as cultures become disconnected from the natural environment. Esteemed Madhubani artists Pushpa Kumari and Pradyumna Kumar have collaborated with visual artist Ishan Khosla and artist Mandy Ridley, developing a drawing approach that synthesizes aspects of their divergent practices. The drawings further translated through scale and media to convey a fantastical world of childhood imaginings: whimsical creatures and loyal pets as companions peeking out from verdant growth with extraordinary blooms on gigantic plants.

The process developed in Delhi, with conversations veering between Hindi and English as the group share stories and memories of the diverse terrains of Madhubani, Bihar and Kochi and rural Gippsland in Southern Australia. The starting point was landscape and plant forms but soon broadened to include special celebrations and items from the domestic environment. Sessions to meet and draw allowed discussion around the differing techniques and styles that each individual’s training have fostered. Mithila art and other traditional Indian arts are inspired by nature and Pushpa and Pradyumna have years of drawing within a tradition framework using ink on paper. Mandy originally trained in graphic design and has a shared aesthetic with Ishan. The creative dilemma was how to synthesise their very different drawing styles. The solution was found in playing with scale by combining a more linear graphic approach with the intense and intricate patterning of Mithila pen-work mastered by Pushpa and Pradyumna.

These works were further translated through the digital reproduction processes familiar to Mandy and Ishan in their individual practices. Installation of the work was conceived to enhance the unusual physicality of the gallery that suggested a ship- like play space. Thus the panels are installed in a way that is evocative of the tent like cubbies built by children, and reflects the ethos of Godh, a space of warm embrace. It is a reminder, an evocation, of the joy, beauty and peace that nature provides, like a mother’s lap does for her child.

Artist Bios:

Ishan Khosla is an artist and designer who works on a range of projects that combine design, technology and craft in different ways. He has an MFA in Design from the School of Visual Arts (SVA), New York and moved to India in 2008 to start Ishan Khosla Design. Ishan has spoken at various forums in places such as Australia, France, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea and in India. Charlotte and Peter Fiell have called Ishan Khosla Design the 100 Best Contemporary Graphic Designers in the world in their book, New Graphic Design. We have been published in India: Contemporary Design — Graphics, Fashion and Interiors (The Victoria & Albert Museum), Tokyo Type Director’s Club Annual, Asian Graphics Now! and several other international books and publications. Ishan is a part-time faculty at the Adianta School for Leadership and Innovation. He also conducts workshops on typography. He also is very interested in international collaborations in design and culture.

Information on Madhubani painting prepared by Minhazz Majumdar Madhubani paintings are typical of the Madhubani region of Bihar, North India and are a vital part of the cultural traditions of the area. Traditionally, women drew these ceremonial paintings on walls and floors, depicting religious and social themes. These paintings were means of visual education, a way of passing down stories, myths and social values from one generation to another. A severe drought in the region during the late 1960s heralded the transformation of this art. The government in an attempt to generate employment and income, started encouraging the women to paint on paper. The transference of these ephemeral paintings onto paper, slightly more permanent and definitely imbued with greater mobility, achieved paradoxical results. On one hand, several great artists such as Sita Devi, Ganga Devi and Maha Sundari Devi came to the fore and proudly proclaimed to the world the existence of the fine art of Madhubani paintings.  Unfortunately, the burgeoning market for this genre spawned a host of inferior paintings, borrowing a little from the tradition but diluting it thousand fold till most of the works are mere shadows of this intricate and exquisite art form.  

Pushpa Kumari is one of the finest Madhubani artists in India today. The granddaughter of Maha Sundari Devi, it was but natural for Pushpa to continue the tradition. What makes Pushpa special is that though she is rooted in her centuries old tradition, she has incorporated not only contemporary ideas and treatment, but also, an artistic intensity, an aesthetic ideal that is truly her own, difficult to find in the mass of generic Madhubani paintings being churned out today.  

Pradyumna Kumar is an award-winning artist, the first Indian to ever win the prestigious UNESCO Noma Concours in 2006. For most of his professional life, he was a land surveyor till a surgery cost him his job. He then took to art, creating paintings influenced by Madhubani stylistic traditions but with themes and topics of his own imagination and interest.   Works by these two artists are in the permanent collection at National Museums, Liverpool, UK as well as the Mingei International Folk Art Museum, San Diego, USA. Pushpa Kumari is represented in USA by Cavin-Morris Gallery New York. 

Mandy Ridley is a visual artist whose work includes exhibitions and permanently installed public commissions. Her projects often start with material culture research, using colour, pattern and craft to explore points of resonance between people of differing cultural experience; tracing history, influence and connection. She has undertaken Residencies in India, and Australia Council funded research into the Islamic Art of Spain, India and Malaysia. Her work has been exhibited nationally since 1996 and is held in Queensland collections, Artbank and privately both in Australia and India.  Mandy has had a long history of engagement with India, through residencies, research and exhibitions, that commenced with the 2002 Khoj International Artists Workshop. Since that time she has visited regularly and maintained warm relationships with a wide circle of Indian artists and connections. In 2012 she was included in an associated event for the first Kochi- Muzuris Biennale (KMB), an exhibition of Australian and Indian artists. The ongoing association with India has been of great significance in the development of her work and great joy personally.