‘Bazaar’ because these 58 gouaches are original commercial art paintings of sweet-toothed, elephant-headed gods with swastika markings, multi-armed invincible goddesses riding tigers, simian warrior deities with mountains of herbs, blue skinned, semi-divine flautist shepherd lads seducing cowgirls, river goddesses, snake festooned gods and open eyed god-men, mostly derived from the great Epics of India, were bought and sold in the street markets of India. To twist a word, they were also a little ‘bizarre’ to Western eyes.
They are a rich source for modern offset printing history and were largely created for the printer/publishers of the small town of Sivakasi in Tamil Nadu, a major world print-production and publishing centre that you’ve never heard of and that was once called ‘mini Japan’.
Of course, they reflect the longstanding formal religious traditions of India but also the popular culture of the mass media, they are entwined with very popular TV serializations of The Epics and the Bollywood film industry and vice versa. Once looked down on by Indianists and Westernisers alike, they are now seen as ‘authentic kitsch’ as the anthropologist Christopher Pinney once described them. Avatars of the Indian gritty Indian bazaar, the printed versions are egalitarian objects that are revered and garlanded in the homes of village, town and street.