For P S Jalaja, art is always a potential and powerful tool to protest. And the ferocity and ruthlessness of the Delhi gang-rape couldn’t have escaped her intense self.
Her quest to etch the crowd and its history - disasters, issues and celebration - inspired her to create this fresco that symbolises the brutal assault and death of the girl.
The fresco features a naked newborn girl bearing marks of extreme cruelty all over her body. “The infant symbolises newness and rebirth, just like the New Year. The wounds she bears on her body are a portrayal of the pain inflicted on it. The image should invoke guilt in all. The Delhi incident has made our New Year a sombre one,” says Jalaja.
The infant’s open-mouthed scream is not portrayed as the natural cry of a child that has just come out of its mother’s womb, but is suggestive of the darkness that she sees in her first stare at today’s insecure and monstrous world, according to Jalaja. A makeshift tomb was erected close to the work.
Jalaja says the use of the powerful image of an infant has a closeness to her sphere of work. “My work exhibited at the biennale is ‘Tug of War’, the daily violent series, focuses on the way children are being affected by violence of war. In that context, the use of the image of an infant became part of my work,” says Jalaja.
And, the artist in Jalaja is happy that the image has affected the sensibilities of many. “The work has been viewed by over 3,000 people. I completed the work in two days, spending a whole night and day. It is rewarding for an artist to see his/her work make an effect,” says Jalaja.
She believes that artists have the responsibility to react to the issue around them. “Irrespective of whether one is an artist or not, a human being, being a social animal, should respond to such atrocities. As an artist, I have to connect my works to the incidents in society,” says Jalaja.
Do her works have gender-specific motifs?
“I don’t limit my work to any gender. My paintings are mostly about the crowd and the influence of the authorities. I portray what the common mass, especially children, face in our society, or world as a whole. What I try to reflect through my art is the possibility of a new vision of hope for a better tomorrow,” says Jalaja.