Power, freedom themes of Kerala artist Sajitha’s works (Art Review)

July 10th, 2008 - 12:15 pm ICT by IANS  

By Madhusree Chatterjee
New Delhi, July 10 (IANS) In 1928, Virginia Woolf spoke to her class at Cambridge University’s Girton College about the need for a woman to be economically independent and have her own room for creative expression. The British author’s idea was immortalised in a published essay and has now been transformed into art by Kerala-based painter Sajitha G. Sajitha unravelled the meaning of Woolf’s essay “A Room of One’s Own” when she moved to her own studio - a delightful stone cottage at Vamanapuram in Thiruvananthapuram, the capital of Kerala.

The studio gave her a private space, the freedom to flower and reinterpret life on her canvas, away from the conventions that holds the mosaic of everyday existence together.

Woolf’s concept of “A Room of One’s Own” etches itself in every stroke of Sajitha’s works, which are on display at the Travancore Art Gallery here.

The compositions, mostly in lithe lines in charcoal and acrylic, seem to explode with the pent-up energy of a woman struggling to emerge into the blazing light of creativity and independence from the fetters that hold her back.

The exhibition titled “Stree (Tracing 20 years)” has been curated by art critic and auction analyst Uma Nair.

The show traces the evolution of the vivacious artist as a mature and independent woman in seven stages - Early Works, Charcoal, Poems of Love, Sculptures, Experimental Charcoals, Graphics and Archetypes.

“Economic independence changes everything. All the equations of the past crumble and new faces emerge in the relationship,” Sajitha told IANS, adding that she is proud to be a woman. “All my canvases fete womanhood.”

Germany, where the artist spent some time in the mid-nineties, plays an important part in several of her compositions, which hark back to the surreal style of the early German masters.

The women on the frames are in black and white - stark images whose pain, pleasure and the joys of being a woman are written in vivid strokes and shades across their faces and bodies.

Sajitha treats her themes and subjects in series, tracing their evolution from bondage to freedom like insets woven within the greater context of her own artistic and creative growth.

Her “Faces Series” in charcoal executed in 1996 are studies in agony. Their contours are twisted out of shape with the intensity of unseen aches. The “Search Through Self II” with the image of the fish juxtaposed head down is a private symbol for the artist.

Sajitha’s experimental charcoal images and graphics score over her coloured frames. The work “Remembrance of Akka Mahadevi” strips her subjects - three women - down to their primal selves. The trio, with their heavy black mass of cascading curls falling like wild manes to their bare bottoms, is shown engaged in a pagan incantation of “shakti” with raised hands.

The figures are framed by orbs, probably strings of the shining suns or fountain heads of secret power. The frame embodies freedom from the trappings of civility - especially in a society of hollow beings.

The series of “navagrahas” or the nine planets etched in charcoal is mysterious. The nine planets are arranged in a vertical collage of small frames. Each cosmic body, a circular orb, differs from the other in volume, pattern and alignments almost like the planets in the solar system when seen through a long-distance finder. The series stands out from the rest for the geometric precision and the element of the unknown.

While Sajitha’s early works show a healthy engagement with twosomes with hints of love, romance and passion on her frames, the works of her later years bring the knocks of life to the fore.

Her woodcuts and graphics - a mass of fluid feminine shapes - are somewhat morbid, reflecting an inner gloom. But the women on frames are of substance.

The moon is like a companion. There are images in which the full moon and lunar activity ascends on one hand and descends in another. The lunar movement reflects on the faces of her subjects.

Archetype, the latest in her body of works, is Sajitha’s search for roots. “It began when I was in Paris,” she says.

Her women in this series, mostly nude figures, challenge writs and strive to take the viewer back to the timeless spirit of “shakti” or the universal mother force.

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