Chasing wilderness

Fathima Shihab’s artworks are intricate, political and wild with hopes for a new free world

author_img Krishna P S Published :  25th January 2022 04:28 PM   |   Published :   |  25th January 2022 04:28 PM

Fathima Shihab’s artworks are intricate, political and wild with hopes for a new free world

KOCHI: The women in Fathima Shihab’s frames are free - to choose, to revel in the wildness of forests amid tall trees and many flowers. They look straight into your hearts with fierce eyes, inviting you to their abode, a whimsical space.

“Freedom of choice is a fundamental right. If everyone had the right to live as they please, the world would be a better place,” says Fathima. Most of the women from her artworks are from Fathima’s life, places she visited and characters that she found in books. 

Her artworks are filled with intricate details and hence they take months to complete. Each strand of hair, each curve of a flower, each line is drawn with immense dedication. “I love the wilderness — nature and its many facets,” says the young artist. There is always that pull, an invisible something that manifests in her works, completing them.

“I started drawing as soon as I was old enough to hold a pencil. But it was always just a hobby. But since college, art has become an addiction,” quips Fathima, who is currently based in Oman. Art is a meditative process for her, a way out of the stress and troubles of the real world. 

“Making each line and stroke in big canvases and walls is time-consuming. It gives me neck and body ache every time. But I can’t be without doing it. Most of the artwork I did in college was black and white, so saved up a lot on paints,” quips the MBA graduate.

In no time, the self-taught artist has become adept at black and white paintings. Her politically-charged works are accompanied by poetry. Women with fiery eyes that throw hypnotic gazes spoke of women’s freedom, the struggle of Kashmir and its people, their aspirations and dreams, and the pandemic. You will find a microcosm of the socio-political world around us in her works. Frida Kahlo, the eminent Mexican painter, is a recurring face in her works.

Communist figure Che Guevara, traditional art forms like Kathakali and Theyyam, singer Beyoncé’s electric Grammy performances — all are references and subjects to her artistic musings. “Everything that has been happening around us affected me. The way our freedom is getting diminished each day, the struggles of common people, all of it. So, I decided my will be subtle in its politics,” she says.

Going digital

“I recently started exploring digital media, around the time I got married. It was a few months before Covid started wreaking havoc,” says Fathima.

Her artworks took a different track around that time. Instead of focusing on monochrome works, she brought out frames with vivid, fluorescent hues. “I started with acrylic paintings on canvas and then moved to digital. It was a revelation,” she adds. This is when romance also became a subject in her works.
Even now, as a new mother, she finds time for her artistic endeavours.

“I make sure to draw at least one line daily. I have been working on a new painting since last month. Though I am recovering from my delivery and taking care of my baby, I can not stay away from art,” Fathima says.