07 October 2013

Ajantha: A Lady in the Making

After completing Ten Thousand Bridges it's nice to return to projects that fit on my table and require quiet time with my hands.

Serendipitously, both projects involve important female figures in the Buddhist pantheon that are rarely rendered in this way. So I'll work from research, traditional paintings and sketches to create the 3-dimensional sculptures in the round.

Courtesy of Petroglyphs
The first is inspired by a beautiful drawing I spied 6 years ago in the Delhi home of my friend, the art collector Suresh Jindal.  Sketched from the Ajantha cave murals in the early 20th century by the Indian artist Nandalal Bose (1882-1966), the figure is perhaps the goddess Tara. On the right is a photograph of the original mural and below is a small photograph of the drawing by Bose.

Drawing by Nandalal Bose. Photo courtesy of Siddhartha Tagore

The drawing is quite difficult to see in this photograph, but it is sublime. 

 To render it into 3-dimensions, I turn to the shilpa shastras, ancient Brahmanic manuals that codified proportions and forms for sacred paintings, sculpture and architecture.

Her left arm is cannot be seen in the drawing or the mural. So I look at dozens of ancient statues and to determine the angle and placement of the wrist and the drape of the hand.

Drawings by Minette Mangahas. (Originals lost.)

Studying the original sketch involves deriving the scale and proportions. If the hand is a unit of measurement, how many hands are in the torso? How does the curvature affect proportion?

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Thanks, appreciate the mindful comment! - Minette