|The Japan Times
Sunday, February 21, 1999
Personality Profile by Vivienne Kenrick
Madhu Jain brings brilliance to Indian scenes with the natural, vibrant colours of Nihonga.
NEW DELHI - "The fusion of Nihonga technique and Indian themes is my humble effort to bring the cultures of India and Japan a step closer. The colours of Rajasthan imbued in the folk attire, festivals, scenic beauty and the deserts seem to come alive with the brilliance of these pigments."
When she, the wife of a senior Indian diplomat, lived in Tokyo, Madhu Jain said that in Japan she had found a cultural home. She felt very much at ease in Tokyo. She was conscientious in playing her diplomatic role and serious in her Japanese-language lessons. She studied "art bonsai." At that time, an artist in oils and acrylics, she said: "I soon got drawn toward the eco-friendly, pollution-free, natural medium of Nihonga. My love for nature and the environment consciousness in me found a strong attraction to this medium. The innumerable rock powders with so many gradations, derived from minerals, shells, corals and even semiprecious stones like garnets and pearls were irresistible. I had never, ever seen so many colours outside the palette, and I decided to understand and research this new medium."
Madhu is now living in New Delhi, in a large bungalow with lawns, trees, flowers and vegetable gardens that she helps tend. Indoors, her artwork covers walls and shelves and tabletops for her home, which she says, is her studio. Her artistic stature continues to grow and her Japanese-language ability, building in continuing lessons, is now rated advanced.
Madhu was born in the pink city of Jaipur in the romantic Desert State of Rajasthan. She grew up in Delhi, where in between high school and university, she took a year's course at an art school. After graduating with a B.Sc. from Lady Irwin College, she married.
With her husband and eventually two sons, she lived in the U.S., Singapore and Pakistan before going to Japan. Wherever she went, she said, "I loved to go away to rural areas to capture what I saw of a slower life. From the Indian countryside, I put on canvas paintings of bullock carts, girls in saris, the vivacity of cultural heritage and traditions. I went to Indian beaches in the south, to beaches in Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and California, so that the love of water grew with me."
During her more than three years in Japan, Madhu began to project Indian visual imaginary through a Nihonga medium. "I learned that originally rock pigments had gone to Japan from India centuries ago. I quite believe this, since mineral pigments and vegetable dyes were used in the cave paintings of Ajanta and Ellora. They must have travelled away and been adopted in the Far East, as Buddhism was."
In Japan, Madhu participated in group-exhibitions, was selected for prestigious exhibitions and held her own solo exhibitions. She won awards and critical acclaim, and received official letters admiring her efforts. She said: "I interacted with Japanese artists, visited exhibitions and searched libraries for something in English. Sad to say, books were only in Japanese, but the artists shared their secrets with me. My being able to communicate in their language got me closer to the teachers of Nihonga, who taught me a lot of traditional techniques, which they said were never written in books. I was fortunate to study Nihonga seriously under this guidance."
In 1997 Madhu held a solo exhibition in Nagano. Her work, projecting Indian themes in the Nihonga medium, excited interest and praise. "I was encouraged by this, and decided to bring together an exhibition projecting Rajasthan folk life," she said. "Having just turned 50, and with India celebrating her own golden independence, I wanted to pay a tribute to my birthplace. I wanted to make the pink city of Jaipur and the vibrant colours of Rajasthan come alive with the brilliance of the pigments of Nihonga." At the beginning of this month, Madhu held her solo exhibition in Delhi. She said: "Indians and Japanese have a great common heritage, and still have many similar practices and likenesses. The quest for spiritual peace pervades the Indian psyche and is so much the preoccupation of the Japanese mind. I want to let the Japanese people know more about Indian culture through my paintings. Painting is an art form in which an artist conveys her visual or imaginary experience, often conveying the inner self of the artist herself, her emotions and love for life around her. New experiments often lend new vigour to the art of painting. My experiment continues."