Meera Mukherjee: Breaking Moulds by Vaishali Shroff (Published by Art1st Publications, 2023) is the story of a woman artist who overcame many hurdles in her art practice and philosophy to build a mould that captured her inner spirit.
A bronze sculpture by Meera Mukherjee twists and turns into the sky. You can trace the strokes where the huge pieces are welded together to create larger-than-life characters – women singers, men at work, or even a mother huddling her children close.
Aside from their scale, you are drawn to their unconventional proportions of arms, and feet, and the detailed grooves along their clothing. Moving closer, one finds Meera’s inspiration – folk art traditions like Dhokra metal casting, flower motifs, etc.
Curious to discover the journey behind this artist’s foray into creating a language of her own? Look no further, for this children’s book has it all. Breaking Moulds brings to the children’s imagination, the story of Meera Mukherjee, a renowned Indian sculptor artist.
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We begin by the doorsteps of the artist’s home in Calcutta, where young Meera watches her mother draw beautiful alponas with rice paste. The art book, written by Vaishali Shroff and illustrated by Shivam Choudhary, takes us on a journey from this carefully decorated chaukat in Calcutta to faraway countries.
Young Meera flies to Europe to learn painting from the great masters. However, she is unable to find an individual art practice in the far lands. So she destroys her work and returns to India.
The book then tells us of how Meera learns art through her travels in India – from the rich craft traditions of Indian artisans and tribal communities. Meera begins to understand the joy and hardships of making moulds after breaking them.
She builds an artistic genius that spans embroidery, clay, ceramic, and her magnum opus— bronze sculptures inspired by Indian life within the artisan communities, transcending your visual imagination in scale, style, and proportion.
To Meera, her Maa’s alponas were like a splash of yellow on an overcast morning, like white shiuli flowers on a carpet of green.
Features of this art book
In true Art1st style, we observe brush strokes and textures of the young Meera illustrated across her mental and physical journeys. In addition to this, the cutouts and pull-outs, and pop-ups in the book reflect Meera Mukherjee’s inner turmoil as she struggles to find a uniquely individual art practice.
As one unfurls each page, they reveal key phrases and words, almost in dialogue with the artist’s creative process. One example would be an early page that tells the reader – “Art found Meera” and as one opens the page, a tiny cutout from under the pop-up leaf reads, “Meera Found Art”.
There are several such interactive pages that capture Meera’s frustration, her ability to transform everything she saw, and her sculptural forms themselves which form flaps that rise out of the book.
Artistic intentions with this art book
In true Art Exploration style, this book contains vibrant paintings, almost in the expressionist style that reflects Meera Mukherjee’s own works. Just as their previous publication, Abanindranath’s House of Stories they traverse from Meera’s journey as a young girl to her maturing art practice as an established artist.
This art book is also created in association with the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, with research supported by Akar Prakar.
The activities section within the books invites participation from readers of all ages. The “Think Like an Artist” section draws attention to the minute details of Meera Mukherjee’s sculpture and invites us to dwell on how the artist plays with form, material, and scale in her works, and how we could experiment with our own insights and observations.
Accordingly, the “Make Like an Artist” section contains prompts to help readers choose a material, play with textures on the clay, and do a sculpting activity for which cutouts and instructions are provided within the book.
She created sculptures of people around her – the tribals who taught her, the weavers, the fisherfolk.
As usual, Art1st Publications creates a reading and activity book, which would appeal to persons of all ages. Further, this is the story of Meera Mukherjee, a woman artist who overcame many hurdles in her art practice and philosophy to build a mould that captured her inner spirit.
Whether you choose to buy it for a young one, or for your own collection, it will make a lovely collection of art books that invite participation along with stories educating us on the rich history of Indian artists.
Have you read this captivating story of a woman artist who overcame many hurdles to build a mould? What do you think of it? Drop a comment below and let us know!