Seamlessly blending art with utility

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The diverse arts and crafts, traditions, and folklore of India reflect the country’s rich cultural heritage. They come from all over the country and use a variety of methods and techniques, as well as artisans’ skills and expertise, to create one-of-a-kind pieces. Because they are handcrafted, they have a rather priceless appeal and a one-of-a-kind quality. And today, these ancient arts and crafts are finding new expression in modern contexts, articulated in ways that preserve their authenticity while allowing them to evolve. In doing so, the artists and craftspeople who are essential in keeping these traditional art forms alive and relevant for today are also brought to the forefront.

One such artist is Jai Prakash Lakhiwal, an acclaimed miniaturist who has played a significant role in preserving and propagating the rich heritage of miniature art. He was inspired by his father who had taken up painting as a hobby while working full-time. Having picked up a brush at the age of six, Jai Prakash started painting very young and gradually cultivated his skill, learning the intricacies from Ustad Feroz whose forefathers were painters in the Mughal court. He is the recipient of several awards, including the Padma Shri (2016).

His skillful creations grace the walls of Rashtrapati Bhavan, the Prime Mister’s Office, Hyderabad House, Supreme Court, and the Indira Gandhi Memorial Museum, to name a few, with one of his most notable works being the 20,000 sq.ft painting in the Anandpur Sahib Museum of Sikh History. Jai Prakash also hand paints for a high-end Japanese Kimono brand. And most recently, the self-taught artist collaborated with Kohler for the India Artist Edition, an endeavour which was born from a vision to create a product that celebrates Indian cultural heritage.

The limited-edition sink ‘Quila’ is adorned with an intricate painting that Jai Prakash has created exclusively for Kohler. Here, art blends seamlessly with utility, rendering a functional object that effortlessly doubles up as a work of art.

“India probably has the widest tradition of art and craft, so we thought it was time to really now invest behind paying homage to Indian traditions. The Quila is a beautiful product, one-of-a-kind, and certainly very different from what people expect to see in a bathroom,” says Salil Sadanandan, President, Kohler, South Asia, Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Since the start, Kohler delved into an in-depth process, which included conducting a 10-day workshop with leading folk artists of India. A detailed brief was given to each artist, culminating in this collaboration with the Padma Shri artist and the choice to go with the traditional art form of miniature paintings. The team initially drew upon India’s diverse heritage of painting, textile, architecture, and embroidery styles to develop the concept, which was eventually realised by Jai Prakash through his evocative illustration of the glorious past of the Rajputs. He himself drew inspiration from the miniature styles of Kota (Rajasthan) and Kangra (Pahari) regions and his painting portrays the magnificent Rajput forts through playful activities of the royalty, and visible across the tamed and untamed landscapes are birds and animals enjoying the spring season. The visual narrative that unfolds captivates the viewer, compelling them to explore the various details depicted by the artist, which are made even more striking by the expressive forms and vibrant colours.

The artwork, which is essentially created on a two-dimensional medium, had to be carefully translated onto a three-dimensional object and this was achieved through an elaborate process, to create a bespoke functional element for your bath space.

“We scanned these paintings and converted them into lithographs which were transferred on to the ceramic surface. It is all about craftsmanship and precision, without any automation” says Anand Asinkar, Lead Industrial designer, Kohler India Studio.

A piece of art, ‘Quila’ will single-handedly elevate the aesthetic quotient of the bath space it is integrated in, narrating stories of the glorious Rajput past through evocative visuals and bringing forth the charm of Rajasthan. Collaborations like these are imperative today as they do not just put Indian art on the global map but also provide artisans with a platform to showcase their talent. And it is through these creative ventures that the time-honoured arts, crafts and traditional techniques of the country gain prominence and relevance in today’s times, preventing them from fading into oblivion.

Salil Sadanandan, President, Kohler Brand South Asia, Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa speaks with IANSlife about the collaboration and its modern interpretation.

Tell us about the collaboration and what it aims to achieve?

Sadanandan: The collaboration aims to bring together India’s diverse arts and crafts, traditions, and folklore, which speak of the country’s rich cultural heritage. Today, these age-old arts and crafts are finding expression in contemporary contexts, articulated in ways that preserve their authenticity while enabling them to evolve. We collaborated with Padma Shri Jai Prakash Lakhiwal, the man who is working to keep these traditional art forms alive and relevant for modern times, to bring the artist and crafts to the forefront. The Quila is a beautiful product, one-of-a-kind and certainly very different from what people expect to see in a bathroom. The artwork, which is essentially created in a two-dimensional medium, was carefully translated into a three-dimensional object, to create a bespoke functional element for the bath space.

Your target audience is HNIs above 35 and especially women. Why is this?

Sadanandan: We have always believed that it’s the women of the house who turn the place into a home. It is because of their knack for selecting products which are design-led and, at the same time, are of good quality that can beautify the place. This belief has led us to make women who are 35+ our target audience.

Tell us about the artwork?

Sadanandan: The artwork depicts the magnificent Rajput forts through the playful activities of the royalty. It showcases a panorama of tamed and untamed landscapes, which brings out the birds and animals enjoying the glorious spring season. The visual narrative unfolds the artwork and captivates the viewer, compelling them to explore the various details depicted by the artist, which are made even more striking by the expressive forms and vibrant colours.

Fittings and fixtures make or break a room, because of the pandemic people are focusing on their living spaces and willing to spend on previously ignored areas like bathrooms fixtures etc. Do u agree?

Sadanandan: A bathroom reflects one’s personality. And with the onset of the pandemic, homes have become the sanctuary for almost everyone. Because of this, the concept of indoor-outdoor living has been translated into the bath space as well, which has opened new opportunities for us. This situation has created an area of luxury combined with a heightened sense of hygiene and safety, giving us the space to create more different products.

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