Artist takes elements of Rangoli and boy, does he run with it

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Canadian artist Praksh Shirke fills in the snout of a grizzly bear with coloured sand. Prakash has taken the ancient Indian art of Rangoli and transformed it.

Canadian artist Praksh Shirke fills in the snout of a grizzly bear with coloured sand. Prakash has taken the ancient Indian art of Rangoli and transformed it.

I am no stranger to Kolam or Rangoli as it’s more popularly known. Many of you will know it as Aripana, Madana and Chowkpurna.

Growing up, most mornings, my Mom would wash the courtyard and then do a quick geometric design with powdered rice flour. On special occasions, she would mix the powder in water and do a wet Kolam. That’s the thing with culture; there are always elements that are common to people irrespective of which part of India you come from.

So, when I heard about a Rangoli exhibition by Prakash Shirke, a Canadian artist, I imagined a more elaborate and intricate version of Amma’s kolam.

I was mistaken.

Narendra Modi and Abdul Kalam shared the room with a fierce Grizzly bear and a resplendent sunset or was it sunrise and at the far end was Guru Gobind Singhji? The colourful pieces had photograph-like clarity.

Prakash captures the serenity of Shri Guru Gobind with stunning results. The image was created using powdered sand.

Prakash captures the serenity of Shri Guru Gobind Singhji with stunning results. The image was created using powdered sand.

Prakash is showcasing his stunning sand-art or Rangoli until Saturday, Sept. 13 at 75 Clarence St. in Brampton in a plaza near Kennedy Road and Queen Street. If you have time, check it out. Show hours are: Mon-Fri: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. and on the weekend (Sat-Sun), you can watch Prakash draw the Rangoli, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

The artist’s eye for details was astounding: He captures the skin tones, the texture of wavy locks of Abdul Kalam’s hair and the predatory gleam on the grizzly’s eyes, not with paint, but sand.

The work was not only intricate, but it required Prakash to spend some 12 hours daily inside a stuffy room (the air conditioner was on fritz) creating art pieces that should ideally be preserved for posterity. Next week, when the exhibit closes, the floor will be Hoovered and wet-mopped leaving no traces of the work that was created there.

“I don’t mind that my art is temporary,” Prakash said. “This means, I can do this again and again…”

That’s an awesome philosophy to hold, especially considering how we humans cling on to everything knowing everything is transient.

Prakash came to Canada some 10 years ago armed with a fine arts degree from Vadodara. We all know, “the struggling artist” is not an oxymoron.

After some odd jobs, Prakash and his wife Vaishali settled down in the GTA, but when a great job opportunity came up in Michigan, Prakash decided to relocate there. He now works as a 3-D animator.

The exhibition had no sponsors or corporate backing. Prakash paid for the supplies, rent for the hall and other expenses out of his pocket.

This was made using coloured sand. Bet, even NaMo will be stumped by the photograph-like effect.

This was made using coloured sand. Bet, even NaMo will be stumped by this photograph-like effect.

Interesting thing: Prakash was initially planning to create a Polar bear, but the white sand, he ordered from India got stuck in customs or some bureaucratic red tape on account of it being white and a powder! So he changed his plans and ended up making a grizzly catching a fish.

“I have done this back home many times, but realized no one has done anything like this here in Canada,” he said. “Many people here don’t even know all this can be done with Rangoli.”

It all starts with Prakash choosing a subject. The idea is to choose a newsmaker that’s relevant and current. Then he powers his laptop and searches for an image or a photograph to replicate with sand. With his laptop perched beside him, the artist then sets outlines the broad strokes and then slowly_pinch by pinch– he starts filling in the form. Like most artists, Prakash is adept at mixing different hues and colours of sands to get the right shade.

Hours of backbreaking work and two weeks later, poof! it’s all gone into the bowels on a vacuum cleaner. But since I am not an artist, I wouldn’t understand, would I?

 

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