Works by Ganga Devi (1928 – 1991), found in the book Ganga Devi: Traditions and Expressions in Mithila Painting by Jyotindra Jain.

Works by Ganga Devi (1928 – 1991), found in the book Ganga Devi: Traditions and Expressions in Mithila Painting by Jyotindra Jain.
From Wikipedia: “Madhubani painting or Mithila Painting is a style of Indian painting, practiced in the Mithila region of Bihar … and Janakpur in Nepal.”
Jain explains Devi’s non-traditional subject matter:
While she was deeply rooted in the tradition [of Mithila painting], which was a source of inspiration in her work and of courage in her tormented personal life, she was one of the few Mithila artists to respond spontaneously and vigorously to the possibilities offered by the availability of paper in the region [starting in the early 60s]… With the availability of paper, Ganga Devi no longer confined herself to painting the ritual kohbar-ghar and aripan, with their limited vocabulary of symbols and images, but started to investigate the unlimited potential offered by line drawing….
Devi’s position as a preeminent traditional Mithila painter brought her opportunities to travel to Russia, the United States, and Japan…. Moscow Hotel, Festival of American Folk Life, and Ride in a Roller Coaster are examples of how an Indian village artist attempts to mythologize the great contemporary urban symbols of our time. In these paintings Ganga Devi transforms the ordinary commonplace images of hotel facades, motor cars, national flags, ticket-booths, roller-coasters, and people carrying shopping bags into imaginary and ‘fantastic’ objects.


Ganga Devi, Stories of Rama (II), 1977, detail, Hanuman jumping across the oceanIsn’t this work remarkable, modern and clean. Devi can design like no one’s business.The minimal color, the line work, the use of white space and wild detail is considered, planned and so natural. The work just flows. Look at the lovely Monkey God, Haruman, at peace, running complete with a snake in his hand, and the greenery moving out of his way as she speeds by. And in the Madhubani tradition, there are the fish…always the fish confirming fertility.

I found this book on Alibris (affordable!) and have it coming. There are more images that I know we will share in the future from this exceptional artist. It was interesting that chatting with Marc V. today about folk art traditions, I was musing that we really do not have an American folk art tradition and he cleverly pointed out that we are a new culture (200 yrs) and this sort of tradition takes time. Come to think of it, isn’t graffiti a folk tradition? And there are the odd offshoots like Grandma Moses, the PA Germans, Watts Tower, Hobo art….but like our culture, there isnt a single thread….but a multiplicity of them. How many centuries old do we need to be as a culture before we have a national folk style?

Speaking of folk art, and folk style….check out this amazing Czech book posted by the amazing A Journey Around My Skull ( A Forest Story with illustrations by Rudolph Mate (1929)— Very Successionist inspired with wonderful pattern on pattern with basic color as suggested by the simple printing presses. Inspiring. I should google Mates and see what else he has done. This work is gorgeous. I want to see more.

Must go. The phone is ringing. Things need to get done and changed.