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Indo-Western fusion artist exhibits paintings of Hindu deities

I’m already in love with the beauty of Northeast: Van Cleef

 

GUWAHATI: His personal love for Indian mythology and the beauty of the sub-mountainous regions and tea gardens of Assam attracted him to the Northeast.

As a matter of fact, India has always influenced French artist Olaf Van Cleef’s artwork, and he calls the country his second home.

“I have visited the Northeast four times and I am already in love with this place. Assam has a very rich culture, history and archaeology, and I believe people of Assam and the Northeast will enjoy my paintings,” Van Cleef, who is hosting an exhibition of his paintings on Hindu deities, at the Srimanta Sankaradeva Kalakshetra here since Friday, said.

The exhibition presents a rare retrospective of paintings of Indo-Western fusion, and will be open till November 26. On display are 144 exquisitely crafted paintings of Indian gods and goddesses, together with a special set of canvases depicting flowers, birds and butterflies, which are Olaf’s tribute to the beauty of Northeast India.

Former Meghalaya Governor, Ranjit Shekhar Mooshahary inaugurated the French artist’s maiden exhibition in Assam.

Olaf is a descendant of the aristocratic Van Cleef family, who were known to export cheese from the Netherlands all round the world, and for their key appointment as jewellers to the Czars of Russia.

Olaf’s paintings are specially distinguished by the inclusion of minute Swarovski crystals and semi-precious stones, together with occasional materials like chocolate wrapping paper. These, combined with the use of fine tipped pens and watercolours, he uses to create his highly detailed works of art.

Talking about his collection, Olaf said, “I began painting Hindu deities based mainly on calendar art of Ravi Varma. While these paintings were exquisitely detailed, I always gave them a French twist to add a touch of individuality.”

“I am always careful about symbols used in my paintings, as they are all derived from tradition. The themes of my paintings are based on mythology, with scenes from Indian epics such as Ramayana and Mahabharata, including gods and goddesses. Ganesha is my personal favourite,” he said.

His larger paintings can take up to 400 hours to complete, though he invests between 100-200 hours even for the smaller ones.

“This is the reason why I always prefer to work on one painting at a time,” he said.

Olaf’s work comprises the use of water colour paints to depict multi-ethnic backdrops, ranging from Ganesha playing the mridangam seated on a tree to a water coloured Krishna surrounded by butterflies.

His Indian themes are enhanced by his Western eye. For example, Lord Vishnu rises from a bed of lettuce leaves, or a portrait of Ram and Sita may show them against the background of a typical European castle.

 

 

 

 

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