Arts and Literature

Tiny paintings with bigger picture

Written by The Frontier Post

Monitoring Desk

NEW DELHI: A high-tech virtual exhibition staged by Google and the National Museum of India has opened a new window on the intricate world of South Asian miniature paintings.

More than 300 of the delicate artworks, including illustrations stretching back to the ninth century, are featured in the “Life in Miniature” exhibition, launched in late October.

Illustrated sacred and secular manuscripts are among some of the defining works of Indian art given a new lease of life thanks to augmented reality technology.

“We thought it would be fantastic to use technology such as our ultra-high-definition robotic camera to help people everywhere appreciate flourishes that you wouldn’t be able to see properly with the naked eye,” Simon Rein, Google’s arts and culture program manager, told Arab News.

Viewers can access the virtual exhibition with a smartphone and enjoy the complex stories of scriptures and human life that miniature masters began to capture as early as in the ninth century.

Some of the paintings accompanied Buddhist, Hindu, Jain and Muslim religious texts, while others illustrated secular literature — romances, dramas, poems.

Dealers would often unbind the illustrations and sell them separately, which is how they became popular and highly sought after at international art markets.

“When we saw the miniature paintings at the National Museum in New Delhi, we were amazed at the level of detail and precision, despite their size,” Rein said.

“We challenged ourselves to use even more technologies, such as augmented reality and machine learning, to showcase these special works of art in an immersive and interactive new way. That is how the idea for the digital ‘Life in Miniature’ exhibition was born.”

The National Museum agreed to share 300 paintings, which Google digitized for the exhibition.

 “The learning and cultural values and other details are greatly enhanced by the digitization process,” a museum spokesperson told Arab News.

The museum will gradually make all of its 200,000 artefacts — representing thousands of years of India’s cultural heritage — accessible through digital platforms.

“This is a project with Google. Gradually, other paintings in the National Museum will also be uploaded,” the spokesperson said. “We have been doing the project since 2012, and the pandemic has made it even more relevant.”

Art lovers say the miniature project is “wonderful news” and will broaden the appeal of this technically advanced form of Indian painting.

“Opening this unique Indian heritage to the world will give anyone, anywhere a chance to view and learn about India in the best way possible,” New Delhi artist and writer Dhiraj Singh said.

“It is an amazing window not only in color and spectacle, but also by presenting a unique way of looking at man and his place in the universe.”

Courtesy: Arab News

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