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From Volga with love

This exhibition gives a glimpse of Russian art and folk, but is also a fusion of two cultures, like the artist herself. Portraits of famous dancers are highlights

Shanti Kushwaha has two motherlands – Russia and India – as her father is Indian and mother Russian. The cultures, traditions and psychology of both remain close to her heart. Immensely inspired by the same, Shanti has canvassed several works, which are on display at the exhibition titled Panorama of Faces from Volga to the Ganges.

During her childhood, Shanti studied in both Indian and Russian schools. Interested in drawing from her preschool days, she went on to pursue her graduation in fine arts. In 2008, she started working as a professional artist in art studios, as well as a drawing teacher.

As a Russian artist, Shanti has been inspired by a realistic view of the surrounding world. This can be seen in her works on display at the ongoing exhibition, which features portraits of Indians and Russians.

Russian art has a classical realistic way of painting, which is reflected in her portraits. “Though they are also impressionistic and have very modern tendencies, a vital part of Russian art is in the academic way of painting. All my works are life studies done in a classical way,” explains Shanti.

She works mostly on mediums of oil on canvas, gouache on paper, water colour and pastel. Shanti has painted portraits of many of her students. Not just that, her works cover common people as well as celebrities.

Interested in dance since childhood, Shanti enjoyed sketching pictures of Indian dancers. Fascinated by a variety of Indian dance forms and the large spectra of Indian folk costume, her works include several portraits of Kathak and Bharatanatyam dancers. Taking keen interest in both Indian and Russian folk, her paintings also feature her subjects with musical instruments — like sitar, violin and piano.

Her fascination with dance is quite evident with her portraits of Hema Malini and Vyjayanthimala, the only few works which Shanti has not done from life. “I am a big fan of their dance. I met Hema Malini at a Russian festival and got an autograph,” she recalls with a laugh.

A unique blend of the Russian realistic way of painting with Indian colours, Shanti has mastered this combination in her own way.

The exhibition is on display at India International Centre till May 28