The intricacies of painting on peepal leaves

Peepal leaf painting is a unique art – the canvas being the distinctive element. Sandesh’s lifelike water colour renderings are done on dry peepal leaves.   



Painting on peepal leaves requires patience and precision. An ancient art of India, artists who paint on peepal leaves are not easy to come by these days. One artist who is passionate about this art form and intends to keep the traditional art alive is Sandesh Rangnekar.
Sandesh’s solo exhibition “Peepal and Me” that opens today at City Seasons in Al Khuwair highlights many Omani lifestyles and traditions.
One of his key accomplishments is a set of 12 paintings of His Majesty. Every water colour depiction is a stroke of genius celebrating the life of His Majesty — starting from his early years until the present day.
“All of the paintings we have seen of His Majesty so far have been of his recent days; not too many people have seen his earlier portraits and I wanted to break this mould and create something different. These portraits, all done in water colours, are different shades of His Majesty,” Sandesh said.
Oman and its picturesque as well as serene environment inspired him to pick up a paint brush after 15 years.
“I see art and beauty in every aspect of life and nature. I rediscovered my passion for art in Oman,” he said.
For the last two years, Sandesh has been exploring the beauty aspects of Oman, in addition to getting involved with some traditional events that would give a closer picture of the richness of the country.
“I’ve been working on painting every single frame of Oman’s serene beauty and unique culture that has passed through my eyes. I’ve already finished dozens of paintings so far but Oman is so rich in tradition, culture and natural beauty that the more I do I realise that a lot more is still left to be covered,” he said.
Inspired by his father, Sadashiv Rangnekar who was a fine artist himself, Sandesh graduated from a school of art in Mumbai.
While he dabbled in the arts as a youngster, he moved on from his passion to pursue a career in commercial arts working in the advertising and publishing fields. But life took a full circle when he rediscovered his passion for fine arts when he moved to Oman eight years ago.
Peepal leaf painting is a unique art — the canvas being the distinctive element. Sandesh’s lifelike water colour renderings are done on dry peepal leaves.
The leaves have a beautiful shape as they taper to a needle point. they have been used for writing before the invention of paper. It is one of the oldest forms of art which shows the ingeniousness and patience of the artist. Only a few artists practice this art worldwide.
Sandesh’s interest in art took shape in his childhood when he watched his father create paintings in his studio.
Although he was keen to try his hand at painting, he was not able to muster up the courage to ask him for access to his art tools.
After a while he could barely control his interest, he began creating art when his father stepped out of his studio. But soon people discovered his talent and he was encouraged to pursue his passion.
Another of Sandesh’s talent is squid bone carving. It was during a visit to a beach in Oman that led him to this virtuosity.
“One day while walking on a beach I came across a squid bone. I took it home, cleaned it, observed it for a while and decided to carve His Majesty’s portrait on it. The squid bones’ milky white appearance and soft flowing lines are simply irresistible. They are soft, fragile and challenging to work on — yet it is so intriguing,” he explained.
Squid bone carving is globally considered as one of the rarer forms of traditional art and craft practiced by a few tribes in the primitive era. He also creates art, using a series of medium that include water colours, acrylics and oil paints.
Sandesh Rangnekar’s artworks will be displayed from April 5 to 18, 2017 at Majlis Art Café at the City Seasons Hotel.