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Find out how ‘Young Lucknow’ artists are blossoming in the erstwhile city of nawabs

Nostalgia, cultures, traditions, mythologies, agriculture, women’s rights – Abir Pothi discovers that the list of inspiration is quite long for these Lucknow-based artists.

Mainaz Bano: Themes of a colonial past


Raised in an Awadhi family, Mainaz is fascinated by miniatures. Zari sarees worn by her mother at festive occasions, with intricate floral designs and distinct textures, introduced her to aesthetics and the importance of attention to detail. She uses materials such as gold and silver leaf, embroidered pieces of clothes, paper, thread, pearl, and metallic colours to creature miniature paintings. Historical figures and monuments are also used as narratives to juxtapose with the opulent past of Awadh to the present epoch of modernity. Nawabs, the bhulbhulaiya, and thuluth calligraphy all act as inspiration.


Mainaz wishes to experience nostalgia in the realm of present through her works. Her paintings examine the role that tradition plays in the contemporary world especially in the context of globalization of Awadh culture. The themes of nostalgia are finely portrayed. One sees hawks, tigers and allusion to hunting parties, and the interactions of Nawabs with officers of East India Company. One even sees scenes from the Ramayana in a series. With an eye for detail and evident research into her subjects from the past, Mainaz creates artworks that are worthy of attention.

Sonal Varshneya: Examining the position of women


Sonal is a printmaker who likens the process of metal etching to reliving the concerns of her mostly female subjects. Her works portray Indian women protagonists from cultural and domestic spaces belonging to urban and semi-urban social setups. The storytelling in her work involves folk, regional, and mythological stories with political and social angles. The mass culture and the position of women that hail from a domestic position is also a point of enquiry in her work. She composes in multiple panels that enhance visual aesthetics. In her current work ‘Revisiting Past in Today’s Context’ she has tried to create a visual commentary on society. She has also prepared a series called ‘Man Ki Baat’ comprising 25 panels. Sonal studied print making at Lalit Kala Sansthan, Agra University. She has taken part in numerous shows and was also selected for a two-month residency in South Korea.

Harish Ojha: Influenced by agrarian roots


His experiences of growing up in a rural area influence his work. Over time, the agricultural cycles that he had witnessed as a child began to assert its hold over him and he turned towards abstraction to explore this preoccupation. He completed his Bachelors in Painting and Mural from University of Allahabad and has a number of exhibitions, solo as well as group, awards, and grants to his credit. Drawn to Indian painting traditions with its decorative flourishes, sometimes his work also has a semi-figurative vocabulary. To express the magic of life being created from earth, his chosen media is paper with high cotton content since it is flexible, tears the thin upper layer, rolls and plants in a pre-designed arrangement easily. Since the paper rolls are of different heights the result is an uneven tactile surface that resembles agricultural processes that involve working the earth, sowing seeds, and waiting for harvest. The dots and swirls in his work mimic the imagery of indigenous painting traditions like Gond art. He thus transforms agriculture into an aesthetic experience.

Mohd. Majeed Mansuri: A dialect with casual forms


Mohd. Majeed Mansuri is keen to make aesthetical and philosophical enquiries through his art. He wants to contemplate forms through lines, textures, and colours. He believes that one can learn a visual dialect to interpret forms and carry out aesthetical enquiries. In the project titled ‘Casual Forms,’ he intends to showcase unseen beauty. Lines, forms and matter have been his weapons to create and reincarnating old techniques has granted him unlimited freedom to explore. His vibrant abstract paintings indeed hold attention. He completed his undergraduate and graduate studies from College of Arts and Crafts, Lucknow University. Currently, he works as a freelance artist at Lalit Kala Academi, Lucknow.

Anju Paliwal: Imagining life forms in scrap metal


The raw nature of people and their hidden emotions has always attracted Anju. She tries to imbue raw, manmade objects with feelings and life. She employs used metal objects as a reflection of the people around her. She sees life in raw old metal scrap. Her own experiences, observations, fantasies blend in the process. An abiding interest in Indian aesthetics also influences her work. There is a great amount of acceptance and rejection that goes hand-in-hand for the final output to be created. With time, she has evolved multiple approaches towards her subjects. Her recent art practice is more concerned with forms developed from everyday objects in her surroundings. You can see more of Anju\’s works here.