Jayasri Burman is a contemporary Indian artist known for her unique watercolour paintings and bronze sculptures. She takes inspiration from Indian mythology and Bangali traditions for her work. In her paintings, Indian deities, worshipping of the goddesses, and ‘mother’ holds a prominent position, which evidently reflects Indianness in her work. She portrays Indian women as divine beings. Through her artworks, she gives a message of nurturing ‘mother’ and ‘Mother Earth.’
Jayasri was born in 1960 (age 62 years; as of 2022) in Calcutta (now Kolkata). Being born into a family of artists, she was introduced to the works of Rabindranath Tagore by her father in her childhood. She completed her bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts at the Kala Bhawana Institute of Fine Arts in Shantiniketan. Later, she pursued a Master of Arts in painting at the Government College of Art and Crafts in Calcutta. In 1984, she went to Paris, where she learnt print-making under the guidance of Monsieur Ceizerzi and did a graphic art workshop with Paul Lingren.
Height (approx.): 5′ 6″
Hair Colour: Black
Eye Colour: Black
Husband & Children
She married twice. According to Jayasri Burman, her first marriage lasted for 17 years. Later, she got married to Paresh Maity, a renowned artist. The couple has a son named Rid Burman, who is a photographer. In an interview, Burman recalled the hardships that she faced after marriage and losing her baby.
The artworks of Jayasri Burman are mainly a fusion of myths and reality that she draws from various sources such as works of Rabindranath Tagore, drama, and Hindu Texts like Ramayana and Mahabharta. She is known for incorporating Indian folk elements and retaining refreshing candour and reflective honesty in her artwork. Without losing the natural allure, the intricate patterns of her canvas incorporate the folk art techniques like Kalighat and Patachitra paintings. She mainly uses watercolours and frequently uses red, blue, and radiant saffron colours in her paintings. She believes that colours and lines have their autonomous symbolic meanings.
River of Faith
Jayasri Burman is highly influenced by the Ganges River. In childhood, she used to visit the banks of the River Ganga with her father for Luxmi Puja. In an interview, she talked about how she used to observe and enjoys the visuals of the river bank. She said,
Her solo show ‘River of Faith’ in Bikaner House was a tribute to the River Ganga. In an interview, while talking about the COVID-19 pandemic and the idea of her Ganga series, she said,
These were people who died of Covid-19 but since there was no space for cremation, their bodies were thrown into the river. Personally speaking, it was very heartbreaking for me to see Maa Ganga being turned into an open burial ground.” Open
Some of her famous artworks from the series “River of Faith” are ‘Ambika,’ ‘Jahnvi I,’ ‘Jahnvi III,’ and ‘Adhisree.’
Born of Fire
The art series “Born of Fire” includes the paintings of Draupadi, a prominent character from the Indian epic Mahabharata, who was born from a yajna (fire sacrifice) organized by King Drupada of Panchala. Burman is fascinated by the bravery, sacrifice, and courage of Draupadi and created an art series as a tribute to her. Remarking the art series, Burman said,
Draupadi is the truest champion of justice and fair play, she stands for women rights and humanity.” She added, “Draupadi is our symbol of hope and fortitude and (I believe) she must remain in the midst of our lives as an icon woman we can all draw inspiration from. She belongs to us!” Jayasri Burman
The series is divided into two parts, one includes colourful paintings and another sketch. Some paintings in this series include ‘Draupadi and the five Pandavas,’ ‘Draupadi and the Game of Dice,’ ‘Born of Fire,’ and ‘Ratna Kuntala.’
The installation by Jayasri Burman is based on the popular practice in India of dedicating votive churnis to their gods or goddesses. It is often seen in Indian temples and mosques that people tie votive churnis and offer garlands on trees and stones in order to get their wishes fulfilled. Burman believes that every votive piece reflects the story of the person’s faith by whom it is offered. The use of votive churnis in her installation depicts this innate belief of the people. In addition, she has extravagantly used the faces of tigers in her artwork, which is a divine vehicle in Hinduism and reflects the intangible power that destroys evil and builds vigour of hope. While talking about this artwork, Burman stated,
The tiger finds its roots in my birthplace, Bengal, which prides in harbouring the Royal Bengal Tiger. It will bot be wrong to mention that they are reminiscent off the panel where they are “prancing, proud and unafraid” in Adrienne Rich’s Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers’, Basking in their feminine fires.” Jayasri Burman
Burman uses bold themes in her artwork. Her art embodies the essence of feminism. Through her paintings and sculptures, she tries to reflect her desire of seeing women in an empowered status, without calling herself a feminist. Except for a few divine figures such as lord Krishna and Buddha, which she uses occasionally, she never incorporates male gods in her paintings, and her artwork rather embodies the Indian deities accompanied by floral patterns (especially lotus), cows, deer, fish, elephants, and other symbols. Talking about her theme in the book “A Mythical Universe,” Prof. Partha Mitter describes,
Jayasri’s themes deal with the feminine, with the empowerment of women through the traditional language of the sacred in Hinduism, her inspiration is the variety of incarnations of Shakti or female energy, the great Goddess, who is considered the mother of the universe. With her muted but engaged feminism, Jayasri Burman refashions the universe of Hindu mythology, which acquires in her paintings an entirely contemporary meaning and nuance. This is the best sense tradition, reinterpreted, reinvented, revised and re-imagined for India of today.”
Her use of hybrid figures in harmony with wildlife reflects her intimacy and love for nature. She intricate flora and fauna as an extended part of human bodies. In an interview, she revealed the reason behind incorporating ducks in her paintings. She said that when was in Shantiniketan, she used to travel to interior villages to sketch. She used to observe the Santa women there who used to live with lots of children and ducks. Burman love and enjoy watching that scene and tries to engulf that in her artwork.
Selected Solo Exhibition
- Pundole Art Gallery, Mumbai (1992)
- Gallerie Ganesha, New Delhi (2000)
- Gallery Sumukha, Bangalore (2002)
- Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai by Gallerie Ganesha, New Delhi Gallerie Ganesha, New Delhi (2004)
- “Fairytales and Laments: The Mythology of Jayasri Burman” at Arts India, Palo Alto, USA (2005)
- “Sacred Feminine” at Art Musings in Mumbai (2006)
- “Fables and Folklore” at Art Musings at Jehangir Art Gallery in Mumbai, “The Mythical Universe” at Art Alive Gallery in New Delhi and at Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi (2010)
- “Lila,” Art Musings at Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai, and “Gazing into Myth,” Gallery Sumukha, Hong Kong (2014)
- “Antaryatra,” Gallery Sanskriti at the Birla Academy of Art & Culture, Kolkata (2015)
- “Born of Fire: A Tale of our Times” at Aicon Gallery in New York, USA (2018)
Selected Group Exhibitions
- Three Person Exhibition, Paris
- Young Faces in Contemporary Indian Art, Birla Academy of Art and Culture,
- Kolkata through the Eyes of Painters, Birla Academy of Art and Culture,
- A Tribute to Vincent Van Gogh, Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi
- Urban Signals, Shifting Images-‐II, Birla Academy of Art and Culture,
- Panchadashi, Gallery La Mere, Kolkata
- Emerging Trends, Centre of International Modern Art (CIMA), Kolkata
- Indian Contemporary, Hong Kong
- Indian Contemporary Fine Art, Los Angeles, USA
- The Family‐3, With Sakti Burman, Maya Burman, Jayasri Burman, Apparao Gallery, Chennai
- Modi Foundation, London
- Bollywood Show, Selfridges, London
- Group Show of Bengal Art, Centre of International Modern Art (CIMA), Kolkata
- Workshop in Egypt with Indian Contemporary Artists by BAYAR ABS
- Brahma to Bapu, Annual Show, Centre for International Modern Art (CIMA), Kolkata
- Shadanga, Gallerie Ganesha, New Delhi
- Visual Art Gallery, London
- Gallery 27, Cork Street, London
- Tate Britain and Chelsea College of Arts, London
- LASALLE, IIFA, Singapore
- An Indian Summer, Art Alive Gallery at Gallery 28, Cork Street, London
- Power of Peace, India Art Tokyo – Imprints
- The Journey, Tao Art Gallery, Mumbai
- X at the rate of Jehangir, Art Musings at Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai
- Think Small, Art Alive Gallery, New Delhi
- Beyond the Form, Bajaj Capital Art House; Visual Art Gallery, India Habitat Centre, New Delhi
- Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai
- Evolve, Tao Art Gallery, Mumbai
- Summer Show 2010, Centre of International Modern Art (CIMA), Kolkata
- Size Matters or Does it?, Latitude 28, New Delhi
- Annual Exhibition, Chawla Art Gallery, New Delhi
- Sensitization, Tao Art Gallery, Mumbai
- Aureus, Gallerie Nvya, New Delhi
- Synergy, Small is Beautiful, Tao Art Gallery, Mumbai
- Art Toronto: Focus Asia, Gallery Sumukha at Toronto, Canada
- An Alternative Perspective, Centre of International Modern Art (CIMA), Kolkata
- The Living Walls: Where Gallery walls become Artist’s Canvas, Art Alive Gallery, New Delhi
- Women: Sacred and the Temporal, Shrishti Art Gallery, Hyderabad
- Equilibrium, Beyond the Canvas, Small is Beautiful, Tao Art Gallery, Mumbai
- When High and Low Meet, Art Alive Gallery, curated by Rupika Chawla,
- Art Stage Singapore, Sumukha Art Gallery, Singapore
- Kalasutra I & II, Sanchit Art Gallery, Singapore
- St Moritz Art Masters 2014, Switzerland, Art Alive Gallery, New Delhi
- Infinite, Tao Art Gallery, Mumbai
- The Ecstasy of Art, Tao’s 15th Anniversary Show
- Art Now 2016, Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai organized by Art Alive Gallery
- Art Now 2017, Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi organized by Art Alive Gallery
- Viswaroopa – The Form of Universe, Birla Academy of Art & Culture, Kolkata
- Indian Art Fair, New Delhi
Awards, Honours, Achievements
- In 1979, Jayasri Burman was awarded by the College of Visual Arts in Tempera for Outstanding Merit in the Annual Exhibition.
- In 1984, she won the National Academy Award for her painting Jeley (The Fisherman).
- In 1985, she received the ‘Padma Shri award’ from the Government of India at 25.
- She received the Certificate of Merit from the All India Youth Art Exhibition in 1987.
- In 2007, a commemorative stamp was released on Women’s Day by the Government of India on which the artworks of Jayasri Burman were printed.
- In 2008, she received the ‘Indian Federation Chamber of Commerce Award.’
- In 2016, she was awarded by the Government of West Bengal for making the best Durga Puja Idol for Behala Nutun Dal, a cultural association in Kolkata, West Bengal.
- In 2017, she was feted with the ‘ICON of Indian Art Award by Verve Magazine.
- In 2018, she received the ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Award at the 20th Beti FLO GR8 Awards.
- In 2021, The Telegraph awarded her the She Award. After receiving the award, she said,
Works of artistes like Meera Mukherjee, Arpita Singh and Amrita Sher-Gil inspire me. I was brought up looking at their paintings and this award is really a big inspiration for me. I want to thank IIHM and The Telegraph for the She Award. Also, I am very grateful and thankful to the jury who has given me this award and honoured me for my journey as an artiste. The Telegraph
- Jayasri Burman helped in forming an exhibition titled “The Family” in 2005 in which her husband, Paresh Maity, her uncle Sakti Burman, and her cousin Maya Burman also participated.
- In an interview, she revealed that among her audiences, people, especially elderly ones, bought her artwork in foreign countries because they feel attracted to and emotionally connected to the Indianness in her paintings.
- She has visited various places such as Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Orrisa, and Madhya Pradesh to get inspiration for her art.
- Her favourite painters include Leonardo Da Vinci, Picasso, Van Gogh, Botticelli, Chagall, and Jogen Chowdhury.
- In an interview, while praising the art of Jayasri Burman, the famous Indian poet and painter Pritish Nandy said,
The significant factor about Jayasri’s art is that it is not just about our past, our tradition, our mythologies, it is also about today. It is this enchanting integration of cultures, language, idiom and narratives that makes her such a remarkable chronicler of our times.”