The Warli Paintings of India

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The Warli Paintings of India

14 November 20153 July 2016

| Free
Warli painting by Jivya Soma Mashe at the Museum of Childhood in London.

LONDON | This small exhibition at the Museum of Childhood presents a rare insight into the Warli, and their tribal art form, from Thane district near Mumbai in Western India.

Drawing on a store of tribal memory, myths and everyday life, it has evolved from restricted ritual drawings into an applied art in the process of transition.

Focusing on the innovative style of Jivya Soma Mashe, who opened up the traditions of Warli to a new iconography, and his follower Ramesh Hengadi, who has developed his own distinctive style in response to the changes in community life, shift in local markets and global economies.

Also featuring a film by artist, Johnny Magee reflecting on Mashe’s practice and daily life. An installation created through a pictorial exchange between puils at Redlands Primary School, Tower Hamlets and a village school in Dahanu, Thane.

The children use the accessible narrative language of Warli to tell each other stories about their respective lives.

The Innovative Style of Jivya Soma Mashe

The Tales We Tell focuses on the innovative style of Jivya Soma Mashe who opened up the traditions of Warli to a new iconography and his follower Ramesh Hengadi, who has developed his own distinctive style in response to the changes in community life, shifts in local markets and global economies.

Further canvases by Mashe family members and fellow artists broaden the story of the evolution of Warli art. Also featured is a film by commissioned artist Johnny Magee. Exploring the paintings and the visual abstraction of storytelling, Magee’s film reflects on the environment, practice and the daily life of Mashe. During the course of the exhibition the V&A Museum of Childhood will host a Warli residency with exhibiting artists from Thane.

The artist will create new work to animate the exhibition and undertake a workshop programme to share techniques and develop ideas to extend this rural Indian and urban East London visual dialogue.

The Warli Project

Traditionally women did Warli paintings for special occasions and festivities.

Warli-painting Fishing Net by Jivya Soma Mashe at the Museum of Childhood in London.In the late 1970s, a man, Jivya Soma Mashe, started to paint as an artist, retaining the distinctive narrative style in creating images of everyday life in rural India, and visualising the folk tales of the Warli tribe. Jivya is credited as a master, the founder of a new tradition of Warli painting.

Other artists have followed, using his visual language and adapting it to develop their own. Warli painting has migrated from the walls and floors of houses in Thane district near Mumbai: paper and canvas paintings have crossed over cultural and geographic borders, bought by tourists and art lovers and exhibited in India, Europe and America. The artists have travelled too, their experience filtering back into the paintings extending the visual vocabulary and taking the narrative beyond the traditional. 

Warli is termed a Tribal art; it is also an applied art. Farmers are not just supplementing their livelihoods, they are now earning their living and supporting family and communities through their art practice.

There is practically no awareness of Warli art in the UK.

It is unrepresented in public collections and it has not been included in any surveys of Tribal art.

The Artists at Work

A Fine Line has worked closely with the Manchester-based filmmaker Johnny Magee, in documenting their practice and way of life, reflecting on the evolution of the art form.

The film alluding to the Warli narratives and drawing on the idea of Mashe’s inner imagination provides a way for visitors to understand the context in which the paintings are made and their cultural and social significance for their communities.

His most recent film forms an integral part of the show.

The paintings repetitive simple motifs taken to extreme lengths will inspire anyone who loves Zentangle patterns and meditative doodling and look like a fun way to have a go at drawing yourself.

Ancient resonances of an art that may have been in existence for a thousand years.


Admission is Free

Illustration: Detail from Tarpa Dance Around a Musician, a Warli painting by Jivya Soma Mashe. Acrylic and cow dung on canvas, 2003. Shown right: Fishing Net by Jivya Soma Mashe.


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14 November 2015
3 July 2016
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