At a time when harassment against women is growing, Strokes 2013, an exhibition of paintings by Shammu Kuriathy brings to light the woes, suffering and trauma of women who are most often looked down on by men.
The exhibition features a series of paintings depicting a number of women characters from myths and of course, society.
One of the most striking paintings in the series is based on the Delhi gang rape. The painting depicts the victim, a young girl as being attacked by a pack of wolves. The girl in the picture is wearing pink and green, pink stands for tenderness, beauty and purity, the qualities traditionally cherished by women and the green signifies the bond between women and nature. As the wolves pounce on her, the painter throws light on how tenderness and beauty are being exploited.
In another frame, the artist depicts vultures closing in on a girl fallen on the ground, signifying the difficult plight of women. Done in ink, the shining red eyes of the scavengers glower against the backdrop of black and grey.
Another striking work portrays a bare breasted woman with a flower in her hand with her head partially covered by a shawl. Her eyes are not visible. Still the artist conveys her desire for her lover through the bright flowers on her hair, now almost grey with the passage of years. Knife strokes are used to create the coarse white patches on her head, a sharp contrast to the smooth brush strokes used for the rest of the picture.
The artist has portrayed Rama and Sita in one of his paintings as equal partners at a rare moment of romance. The painting also shows the harmony the couple has established with the wildlife in the jungle.
“In these pictures I have focused on some of the burning issues of our times. Especially on women’s safety. Everywhere she is under attack and humiliation. At public places, on the streets, in the bus, she isn’t safe anywhere,” said Shammu. “Through these paintings I want to draw attention to these issues,” says the artist.
The exhibition also features paintings on other issues such as deforestation, religious practices and the lust for many things prevailing in society.
Shammu points out to the work ‘Mahabali’ and says that it is his favourite. The Mahabali presents a sharp contrast to the traditionally hailed king. “I did not want to draw a caricature of the King. In my imagination, Mahabali was a handsome, young emperor, who took utmost care in his duties that even the ‘Devas’ got jealous of him”, says Shammi. The painting depicts Mahabali as a person who craves for knowledge and reads his scriptures under the light of a lamp.
Shammu Kuriathy is also a sculptor whose twelve-foot Hanuman at Pangod, a sculpture of a cow at the Milma farm Thiruvananthapuram and 16-foot sculpture at Sree Chitra Poor Home have won applauds. With over 30 paintings in oil, and acrylic, the exhibition was inaugurated by director Sibi Malayil on Friday at the Press Club Art Gallery.