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Artist Prafulla Dahanukar’s Painting Acumen and Versatility

Praffullaji graduated from the J.J. School of Art with the Gold medal in 1952. Soon she had her first exhibition in JehangirArt Gallery in Mumbai called RaagRagini. One of those painting is shown in Fig.1. She has brought out the beauty of classical music raga “MeghaMalhar” into her rendition. MeghaMalhar is the raga which creates the mood of the monsoon. You can see it in this painting. Prafullaji’spainted the hazy sun, blotches of blue, white and deep grey for showing the monsoon sky. The refreshingsmell of wet red earth filling the atmosphere is creatively depicted as a red dome on the heads of the musicians. The simplistic drawing of Tulsivrindavan potted plant with onlyflowers heralds the onset of showers. The plain round shape on the left is faintly reminiscent of the village deity. The two female musicians are so beautifully presented!Their hairstyle, neck ornaments, and bangles show their rural origin and authenticity. Fig. 1ashows painjan in the feet and the toes turned upwardin her uniquerendering style. The painting is a sensitive impression of the music raga frozen in the memory that has been put down on paper by the masterly hand of Prafullaji!

Prafullaji then took to palette knife, and she mastered the technique. The painting in Fig. 2 created by her in 1965, shows the festive folkdance attitude of the fishermen even as they pull the net. Her exquisite impressionistic rendition of the drummer and the mood of the moment, created with palette knife can be seen in the close-up in Fig. 2a.

Prafullaji never shied away from using the brush. During the awareness campaign for adult literacy drive in the 70s, she created the painting shown in Fig. 3 in 1974. The painting shows the strength of Prafullaji’s brush strokes in her powerful composition showing the plight of adult women trying to learn how to read and write. She is shown writing on a slate in the light of the lantern. The warmth of the lantern light is subtlety depicted by Prafullaji with the red glass pane on the lantern. The starkness of the surroundings denotes the abject poverty in the house. The large red patch on her forehead shows that she is a married woman coming from religious, god-fearing, and superstitious family background. But her determination to learn to write is brought out strongly by her sitting position, by her stance, and by the expression on her face. The painting delivers the message which Prafullaji intended.

Prafullaji once again used the brush in her painting of the “Hippie” in 1991 shown in Fig. 4. In the early 90s, foreigners came to Goa and thronged the beachesin skimpy clothes. You can see the woman is a foreigner by her features and her short hairstyle. She looks young by the firmness of her breasts. The symbols of the beach, with wooden-stick stands for drying fish, can be seen in the background. The stark torso with a few strands of strings as neckwear show her grim reality. The skin is fair, but heavily tanned in the Sun. Prafullajibrought out the sighting of semi-nude foreign women on Goa beaches into limelight with her superb rendering.

Finally, from the 2000s, the roller dominated Prafullaji’s painting. She used the roller to show endless lines from left to right on her canvas. She used the roller to show repetitive forms to show velocity and movement. She used the roller to create subtle shades which lent beauty and depth to her work. She used the roller to bring out her mastery of colours. Fig. 5 is a fine example of her superb craftsmanship in an abstract painting!

Prafullaji was respected as a master artist because of her mastery of all the instruments of fine art, her flawless line, her strong strokes, her innate sense of composition and her mastery of colours. She has rightfully earned a unique place in the history of modern art in India.

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