Birds of the Night : Midnapore patachitra painting by Layala Chitrakar

Birds of the Night : Midnapore patachitra painting by Layala Chitrakar

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Artist :        Layala Chitrakar
Title :          Birds of the Night
Medium :    Powder pigments on paper with cloth backing
Size :           15” x 22”
Year :           2023

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About a decade ago, ‘potua’ art was written off as a dying folk art form, as “chitrakars” began drifting away from their traditional occupation in search of a livelihood. Thanks to the timely intervention of various agencies, it has undergone a revival and today the ‘patachitra’ has reached national and international forums.
“Patta” literally means “cloth” and “chitra” means “picture” in Sanskrit. The materials used are all indigenous and inexpensive, coming from vegetable, earth, and mineral sources. Conch shells, crushed, boiled and filtered, are used for white, black comes from lamp soot, red from ‘hingulal’ stone, green comes from plants and blue from indigo. These extracts are then cooked with the gum from the ‘kaintha’ (elephant apple) fruit tree and applied. The scrolls are unfurled with a story, usually sung. Themes include popular Hindu deities, epic and Puranic anecdotes, folktales and myths, incidents of daily life, and the flora and fauna of their environment.

Midnapore ‘patuas’ of today are the young descendants of old families of scroll-painters. They have continued with the traditional style, form and medium of their ancestors. Layala Chitrakar has mastered the Kalighat style of painting and combined it with the Midnapore medium to produce enchanting works with a touch of satire and mischief.

The paints are hand made, the paper is backed with old cloth in the Midnapore style, but the strokes, the subject matter and the painting style are very much of the Kalighat School.