Pushpa Kumari (born in Madhubani in 1969; she currently lives and works in New Delhi) grew up in her maternal grandparents’ home, surrounded by beautiful Madhubani paintings made by her grandmother, Maha Sundari Devi, one of the foremost Madhubani painters of India. Pushpa was sent to her grandmother’s house at a young age to keep her company while her mother and siblings lived close by in her father’s ancestral village. Her father’s abrupt disappearance was a turning point in Pushpa’s life. Though still a child, she felt responsible for bringing her sisters up, a task she shouldered willingly. She took to painting very early and with such success that before long, she was able to live from her art. Combining skill and delicacy, her earliest artistic inspiration came from watching her grandmother.
Pushpa Kumari illustrates the point to which her culture remains alive: far from reproducing only traditional sacred subjects, she has integrated a distinctive sensibility and personal themes. She develops her centuries-old tradition through the filter of her personal aesthetic ideal. Her graphical skills bear a resemblance to those of the greatest artists of her region, on occasion exceeding them to achieve a freedom of expression made possible by her unique talent.
Her search for suitable subjects is relentless and all consuming. The themes of her drawings are garnered from deep within the Hindu epics and folk stories she heard half-asleep on her grandmother’s lap, from topical discussions swirling around her, and fragments of conversations remembered at some later date. Her pictures, illustrating episodes from ancient history, raise universal issues like birth and death, or local concerns, such as the female foeticide prevalent in India.
For Pushpa, her drawings represent a refuge, a silent sacred space. Only madness or wisdom can achieve the obsessional intensity of her drawings, which require hours of work. She is a woman of uncommon vision with a unique gift for telling tales through her art, which, regardless of geographic or cultural barriers, touch every heart.
Text by Minhazz Majumdar, taken from Raw Vision, spring 2006
Collections FNAC Fonds National d'Art Contemporain Paris, QAGOMA Melbourne. Publication "Raw Vision" Spring 2006.