Recent Works of RINI DHUMAL

Preview: Thursday 4 December 2014, 6:30 pm onwards and a book release by eminant painter Anjolie Ela Menon. Exhibition continues up to 16 December 2014  |  Daily 11am – 7pm, Sundays open


The rays of the sun streaming in were blocked out, and in the pitch-dark caves, the frescoes on the walls were aglow with an intensity that was almost celestial. The figure of Buddha in meditation loomed large eyes closed, fingers delicately composed in mudras. A hush fell over the gathering as the artists almost reverentially took in the spectacle of the magnificent friezes on the Dunhuang cave walls. The spell was broken when the group spilled out into the sunlit area fronting the caves and wandered off in different directions to explore the heritage site. All but one. Rini Dhumal stayed back, her sketchbook clutched in her hands as she scribbled away furiously, capturing the images before they faded from her mind. It had been reassuring within the darkness—the serene Buddha so intensely present before them, but the gentle expression was already ebbing. She knew well how fickle the ways of seeing were, how easy it was to forget! The composition of Buddha, with a thousand alms-bowls arranged in a semi-circular curve around the seated figure, and the sun and the moon in distant heavens, had mesmerized her. She wanted to remember always the intricate way in which the two dragons had twisted their lashing tails beneath Buddha’s lotus throne. She had to sketch her observations immediately…lest she should forget the blue of the sea was and the deep crimson of the lotus blossoms. And so her fingers flew over the blank pages, filling them with images of the Jataka tales, the apsaras and Buddha.

Rini Dhumal traces her tryst with drawing, back to her early girlhood when she spent long summer holidays at her grandfather’s ancestral home, a rambling mansion in Itapur, now in Bangladesh. While her other siblings busied themselves elsewhere and her twin brother sat patiently by the pond waiting for the fish to bite, Rini wandered around the vast house. She befriended the elderly widows the family had given shelter to and begged them to tell her stories of their lives, of when they were young brides of the village. She never tired of hearing their stories and, in the quiet of the afternoon, as she sat listening to them, she often sketched in her drawing book the impressions of those tales. They were like fairytales—far removed from her own life in the crowded metropolis of Bombay.

Rini inhabited a secret world even as a child, a world where there was romance and tragedy in equal measure, and love and loss. She yearned to journey to Itapur; she yearned to lose herself in the stories of the women widowed and abandoned, who had found new lives and hopes when society had almost shunned them. Drawn to lives, Rini began her journey as an artist, documenting the stories of the widowed women she had befriended. Her models/friends cheered her early efforts and encouraged her to find her wings as an artist. Studying art at Baroda, Santiniketan and Paris, Rini honed her skills as a print-maker and painter, receiving recognition for her merit early in her career. Being adventurous, she experimented with other mediums, working with ceramics, textiles and glass, holding successful exhibitions across the country. Yet, despite all her other commitments, she continued to draw whenever she found the time, and even when she had none, pursuing a passion she had always nurtured.

The shadow of myth has always been a part of her narrative; the folklores she has heard over the years have become entwined with her work, as if an organic part of her pictorial realm. The religious icons of Devi, as Durga or Kali, dominate her canvas—their magnificent personas towering over the others. Rini is an inveterate traveller, and her drawings of the iconic deities like Durga or Shiva are sourced from her wanderings across the country. She has spent hours observing the pilgrims in Varanasi as they prayed on the ghats by the Ganges. In the temples, as the evening arti was taking place, she has stood imbibing the incense-scented atmosphere of the pujaris invoking the gods. She has seen the rites and rituals of life and death by the Ganga on her many visits to Varanasi and Gaya. She has travelled across Europe and Asia acquainting herself with churches, temples, mosques and other places of worship to experience how faith impacted lives even as violence tore the world asunder in conflict zones nearby. It has never ceased to intrigue her, the inexplicable ways of the world! Across diverse cultures and faith lines she has stood unobtrusively and sketched her impressions of the people she encountered. In her studio, later, randomly sketched impressions were the skeletons she fleshed out into formal compositions on paper, with charcoal or fine pencils.

– Ina Puri

Exhibits in this show

Project Details