Sinlung /
04 March 2015

The Right Spirit

talk, art, art exhibition, painting exhibition, Mizoram, Vanlalhriata, liquor
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(Above) Vanlalhriata; his paintings

By Adam Halliday
It’s an unusual way to greet the end of prohibition — with an exhibition. With over 40 watercolour paintings , Mizoram-based artist Vanlalhriata’s solo show “Liquor” depicts personal experiences and public perceptions through the motif of a transparent bottle.

He ends his 11-year hiatus with this, though his break is much shorter than the 19-year prohibition that was lifted last year with the introduction of a new law. It will facilitate the selling of a limited amount of alcohol each month to those who have applied and got permits, but has not begun in earnest yet as legal liquor outlets have not yet been opened.

“Everyone is familiar with alcoholism. Most families have someone who drinks, or know of close neighbours or friends,” says Vanlalhriata.

The exhibition, which began February 24 at Aizawl Art Gallery showcases contemporary themes. In some canvases, the heads of men and women behind the silhouette of the bottle morph into pigs, donkeys and wolves. One shows a crashed car within a bottle while another has a bottle that tears a thatched hut into half.

In some frames, traditional local rice beer or Zu appears to fetch money and fame, but then, the artist concedes, Zu is allowed on special occasions by the new law, though its sale will be regulated. “I try to be as objective as possible about alcohol, but it doesn’t lead to many good things except maybe some camaraderie and deep sleep, that too only in moderation,” says the 35-year-old artist.

A part-time graphic artist for Doordarshan, Vanlalhriata’s works, in water colours and acrylics on canvas, have been exhibited in Aizawl, besides Delhi, Kolkata and Guwahati. His previous shows have mostly focused on realistic scenes depicting the pre-modern life of Mizos.

Most of his paintings in the “Liquor” exhibition, which closes on Saturday, are associated with the negative effects of alcohol, which is not an uncommon sentiment in the state. Prohibition and the lifting of it are contentious issues despite more than 40,000 people having applied for liquor permits, as of now.


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