Art of defiance
Archana Murali, a NIFT graduate and visual artist, is using many dimensions of her craft to send out powerful messages
KOCHI: There is a popular Malayalam saying — two heads can be united, but not four breasts. It is a diabolical take on the age-old patriarchial stereotype of women being their own worst enemies. But artist Archana Murali believes it’s time someone told off whoever still believes in this toxic idea. That is why her textile print named Dread Queen shows a feminine figure with multiple breasts attached to her. It shows a world where women support each other.
For 24-year-old Archana, her canvas is her expression. The NIFT graduate, who is currently working as a freelance textile designer, brings out conceptual prints — some of them are quirky, while others are thought-provoking. “Art shouldn’t be restricted to just a canvas or digital medium. Why don’t we wear them instead? Be it on your body or clothes, wear your thoughts. That is a great way to deliver a message accurately and aesthetically,” says Archana.
Stereotypes that run deep in the society are hard to unlearn, but Archana believes that when the change is painted in the most vibrant colours, printed and worn by a whole community can go a long way in changing the minds of people. The project ‘Freedom,’ featuring models Samson Lei and Unni PS has them wearing the concept ‘Liberation of love’. The characters and their lower bodies have been symbolically drawn-out — eagle legs and serpentine figures to portray contrasting stereotypes, and how the world doesn’t need them.
“Liberation of love breaks all the notions surrounding gender. Society says we can only spend our lives with people of the opposite sex. At least in the future, I want us to have a system that is free of such conditioning around gender roles. After all, love is love,” says Archana.
Psychedelic themes linger in Archana’s saturated prints, certain surrealism that defies her art’s applicability in the real world. A naked woman in a trance holding a cigarette, a lady fox, mudras — Archana uses her characters to speak her real thoughts. “Wherever you look, there is reality. Once in a while, we need a way out of this uncomfortable setting and be in our own happy place. In my prints, the characters in another realm speak truths of this reality,” she adds.
Use of colours
Power, equality, liberation, faces, people — no matter what the topic is or how dark the theme is Archana never fails to add vibrant colours to her canvas. “Who doesn’t like colours? Don’t we all look up at the sky, moon and stars just to see the hues? Colours will always play an important part in my life.My interest in colours came from my mother. She used to take me to many festivals and competitions where I represented Thrissur,” says Archana who was a state-level watercolour painting competition winner.
Fashion in 3D
Archana recently launched her first fashion 3D collaborative NFT project in India. “If a woman has power and speaks for herself, she is always given a negative face in the society. They are always in chains. The artwork shows two men arechained by a dog-faced character with a human body,” she says. According to Archana the NFT piece can also be viewed from the eyes of a rebellious mother who raises her children to be gender-neutral. 3D artist Chanse collaborated with Archana on the piece. “Fashion and art are always seen separately. So we mixed the two to send out a message,” she says. Her works are available on Opensea and Foundation.