A sea of stern-looking policemen armed with guns corner a civilian group who stand helplessly. On a closer look the work depicts cops from every nook and cranny of the world, and an eerie darkness hovers above. On the opposite wall, a large frame has hundreds of civilians attacking a group of cops in an air that is colourful and lighter.
The conflicts between the oppressed and the oppressors come to the fore on a planet that moves in harmony with other cosmic bodies never interfering or imposing itself on others.
Through myriad countenances P S Jalaja brings out mob psychology and life’s complexities in a detailed light. She has researched a great deal to portray the characteristics of the policemen of each country, their mannerisms, attire and their weapons. A close look into the faces on both the paintings rings Hamlet’s words in mind. ‘What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty!...The beauty of the world! The paragon of animals...’
Jalaja has an uncanny way of bringing alive the crowd and similar emotions and feelings, thereby taking the individual to a collective plane.
Says Jalaja, “Man in a wider context moves away from a single entity, his emotions, aspirations, needs and dreams merges with a group, and his history blurs into human history. Crowd and history have fascinated me from my school days and have unwittingly crept into my work. I used to make mental pictures of great battles and rise and fall of empires and civilisations.”
Her delineation of the mobs, through watercolour on paper is stunning, with the unique treatment and style augmenting her thoughts. Jalaja dreams of an utopia where each one has his physical and mental space with none bothering to usurp them.
“During my days at RLV College, outdoor studies were mainly on man and his peculiarities,” she says. Today, the issues and injustices plaguing mankind dominate her works that invariably trigger dialogue.
She says, “Sometimes the experience of a man becomes the experience of a society and sometimes of a country. The names may vary, as do the people and the places. However, there is a common word, ‘man’. As conqueror he is the creator of his history and the history of the conquered. My attention focuses on these contradictions that keep evolving. Humankind is subject to contradictions, changes and experiment and man is at times the victor and other times the vanquished. My works are positioned somewhere between these paradoxes. It is the common face of ‘man’. The history within the collective history.”
Besides, the police attack or war series, she has exhibited two other series. She explores the nine ‘rasas’ based on the social realities of the state in her ‘Navarasa’ series.
“This endeavour is a subtle artistic interference on the degenerating psyche of Kerala, seeking introspection. The state with its captivating natural beauty, soothing climate, astounding cultural lineage and stunning social indices can also be an arena for studying the overall decadence in sociopolitical and cultural spheres,” she says.
The artist portrays the nine moods through various groups of people, including, children and women, old men, and police. “The varied moods of people of my native place, Keezhillam in Perumbavoor have found their way in my works.”
The other series is on the great personalities in different walks of life who have shown the way in their respective fields. With a mask of sorts she shows how the great minds went above the trivial ornamentation, the superficial and meaningless luxury to subtle heights. The works have heads of great people on heavily ornamented and hollow bodies.
Jalaja’s passion and flair for painting can be traced to the artistic traits of her father, a carpenter who always supported her artistic ventures.
The young artist who completed her MFA in 2009 from RLV has mostly exhibited her works outside the state and abroad, though she had done group shows in the state.
She had bagged many awards for her works. Jalaja has exhibited her work in Mumbai, Delhi at the Indian Pavillion at Prauge Biennele and Art Gwangju in South Korea. The show will run through March 30.