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Warli Painting

What is "Warli Art?" by Rashmi Talpade

What is "Warli Art?"
“Warli” is the name of the largest tribe to be found on the northern outskirts of Bombay, in Western India. Despite being in such close proximity of the largest metropolis in India, Warli tribesmen shun all influences of modern urbanization. Warli Art was first discovered in the early seventies. While there are no records of the exact origins of this art, its roots may be traced to as early as Tenth century A.D. when the practice of embellishing the walls of the house was the only means of transmitting folklore to a general populace not versed in the written word . In many important respects, this highly ritualistic art form differed greatly from the folk and tribal art known to urban India until then. It did not narrate mythological stories in vibrant tones nor did it contain the robust sensuality of the paintings found in Eastern India.
Warli paintings are strangely ascetic, unlike other folk paintings of India which consist of myriad primary colors in such abundance. Instead they are painted in white on an austere brown surface decorated with occasional dots in red and yellow. This first impression of sobriety is countered by the ebullience of the themes depicted. These are remarkable in their intensely social nature. They look outwards, capturing the life around and by implication, the humanness of living. Men, animals and trees form a loose, rhythmic pattern across the entire sheet. This results in a light swinging and swirling movement, describing the day to day activities of the Warlis. In doing so, they seem to be seeking communication among themselves and with the outside world. It is believed that these paintings invoke powers of the Gods .
My journey to this magical world of little match-stick people began about fifteen years ago when I was first introduced to this style of painting as an art student. The outcome of this profoundly moving influence was a series of derivative works, which adapt forms and subject matter in compositions which are so alive to me that I can almost feel the activity, the voices and the drumbeats of the people. So much so that they ceased to be primarily a tribal art and became a series of tableaux for me, enacting a lifestyle of people who were a part of me . Their monochromatic murals came alive for me to the extent that they attained a spectrum of overpowering tropical colors in my imagination, overshadowing the extreme poverty by sheer vitality of expression .
They represented to me a feeling of hope and optimism , an attitude I have found so essential for existence in modern times. The resultant paintings which are a medley of original forms and themes, combined a swirl of colors and compositions, juxtaposed together to create the series exhibited . It is almost as if I were viewing various episodes of a lifestyle unfolding before my very eyes, and the heavily decorated patterns painted around most of the compositions are like curtains framing the performers on stage - a stage uncluttered by perspective, dimensions or light and shade details .

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