A ‘riot’ against animal cruelty

Though not displayed as a typical exhibition, the scattered, desolate imagery and themes in the works here make me pause, disconcerted.
Artist R C Prakash
Artist R C Prakash

KOCHI: After exploring the Biennale and other art exhibitions in Mattancherry, I stop at little ‘art rooms’ at a creative space called Cube. Each room has marvellous works by various artists. One such room, however, leaves me agitated. 

Though not displayed as a typical exhibition, the scattered, desolate imagery and themes in the works here make me pause, disconcerted. “Writing is not my language, nor is speaking. So I thought why not use a medium I know to speak out,” says artist R C Prakash, whose works rail against animal cruelty.  

His surreal, sometimes abstract, paintings with striking splashes of colours are grim. They unsettle one; some gory frames trigger revulsion. And that exactly is the artist’s intention. He wants his paintings to make the viewer uncomfortable. 

Prakash says cruelty against animals — and the terrifying truths about the meat industry — moved him, and compelled him to pick the painting brush up. “I have found that this is the right way to communicate the pain,” says the Kollam native, who is based in Thiruvananthapuram. 

“People feel more after seeing a painting, rather than reading about how animals are tortured.” Prakash often juxtaposes human imagery in the macabre scenes he creates. “What if we go through the same things? What if we are locked up, skinned, forced to give birth, killed?” he asks. “From school, we study that the cow gives us milk, the hen gives us eggs... But how are we treating the beings that feed us?”
In one of his larger works, titled ‘Red Milk’, industrial machines squeeze out blood from human-like breasts into a milk vessel. A bovine head looms above the imagery. 

“In industrial animal farms, cows are injected with hormones to generate milk. They are forced to give birth constantly. Just after one pregnancy ends, the other one starts,” notes Prakash.  “And once the cow is past the age, she is killed for meat. A life spent just getting tortured, nothing else. Not even a moment of respite.” 

Another agonising work here is Prakah’s version of Vincent van Gogh’s ‘A Pair of Shoes’. Unlike van Gogh’s painting, Prakash’s shoes are in blood red – provoking thoughts on what goes on within the leather industry.

 Prakash adds he turned vegan several years ago after visiting a dairy farm, watching documentaries and reading articles. He, however, believes there is no point in coaxing others to follow his way of life. “Do it only if you want to” is the 45-year-old’s motto.

Prakash’s concern for animal welfare is not limited to his art. Along with a few friends, he runs a centre for rescued animals in Thiruvananthapuram. “We now have hundreds of animals there. Cows, buffaloes, hens, ducks, goats and so on. The animals that not many people would be very keen to save or adopt,” says Prakash, who has just returned from Bengaluru after participating in a march to create awareness about animal rights.

“Human beings are evolved creatures. We can think, understand and empathise. Yet, why do we still continue this torture?” Prakash says, he knows not many would buy his works. That doesn’t bother him. “They are not pleasant to look at. Not many would feel like displaying it in their living or dining rooms. They have to face it every day,” he says. 

“But I will keep making them, and communicate what I have to.”

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The New Indian Express