Saturday, May 31, 2014

In which I learn about popular culture

- By Deepa Krishnan

I took this picture of our neighbourhood poster guy, as he set up his pavement stall in the morning:
In one quick glimpse, I could figure out what people want to put up on their walls:
- Sai Baba of Shirdi
- Hindu gods and goddesses
- Bonny babies (including one baby + cell phone combo)
- Chhatrapati Shivaji
- Body builders
- Unrealistic Landscapes
- Bollywood movie stars

My favourite was this poster of Devi, showing the entire universe contained in her. It has such fantastic iconography, I stood there for a couple of minutes just trying to figure out everything that was going on. I wish I could meet the unknown artist, who put together this dazzling imagery of earth and its creatures, all the gods and indeed, the entire universe, contained in one form.
Here's a closer look at the lower half of the picture: what do you see? I see the natural world; elephants, fish, snakes, cows, swans; I see a thousand references to mythology, each one a complete legend in itself. I can't even begin to describe all of them. Amazing, to just find this on the street. This is what popular culture is about - there are no art curators, there is no knowledgeable prattle, and there are no fancy galleries with their rarified atmosphere. The market rewards the artist who best expresses what people want.
Here is a closer look at the upper half: the style tells me this was produced in the south of India, but I don't know where. If you click on it, you can see a larger version. The navagraha (nine planets) are represented in her eight arms and in her crown (the Sun God is in her crown). The entire universe is contained in her.
I looked more closely, and found that there were two names signed at the bottom: Siva and Jothi. I think Siva is the artist, and perhaps Jothi is the company that produced the poster? That spelling of Siva tells me this is likely from Tamil Nadu, where I see this spelling usually. Whoever it is, I hope they know they are appreciated!

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