Art out of control
Babitha Rajiv’s surreal frames tell tales that are beautiful, yet violent and dark
KOCHI: There are many kinds of storytellers among us. The bright, imaginative lot that opens up new worlds and characters with words. They show us the stories through lines and curves and colours. For Babitha Rajiv, reconstructing anecdotes from a seemingly mundane life with her vibrant brushstrokes is the way to go about it.
Imagine this - a pond with lotus flowers floating on its surface. The stem and roots go deep underwater where fishes and frogs live. Then enter two ephemeral swans. They peek underwater and swim beneath the surface, wrecking its tranquillity. The Frogs and fishes scram as the swans swim away towards other possible diversions. Babitha tells this little story in 10 frames. For a viewer, the attempt is tempting, finding the story beneath the story, the messages hidden in its folds. “Little Pond Stories is filled with such tales that come to my mind. I leave it to the spectators to read it as they wish. If they want to connect it to socio-political upheavals in our world, it’s up to them. My job is done once I finish the paintings,” quips Babitha.
However, a majority of Babitha’s works have harsh, violent, dark, cruel undertones to them. How mankind selfishly keeps taking from nature, how humanity is hard to control, myriad emotions we live with, both ugly and good, find a place in her dark prism.
Though she never studied art, Babitha has been drawing since she was young. “I was never without pencils and paper. Always drawing,” she says. By the time she reached high school, surrealism became evident in her works. “I didn’t know that it was called surrealism back then. They were all frames from my mind,” she says.
Babitha thrives on spontaneity — the urge to create something. “I never plan ahead. Even if I decide on a theme or a title, the contents on the canvas can be hardly controlled,” she says. Her work prepared for a group exhibition was supposed to be about a little girl enjoying the monsoon from under an umbrella.
“However, the finished work was a skeleton surrounded by frogs, drenched in rain. I didn’t see that coming,” she quips.
She did a solo show last year — 613 Seeds — about the human urge to use and destroy everything. “Until a few years back, my home in Fort Kochi was completely unaffected by floods. But now, every year, we are witnessing flood situations when the rain intensifies,” she says. The zebra, a constant presence in the series, represents the untamable humans. The pomegranate in her frames is symbolic of impending chaos too — if opened, it leaves a messy trail behind.
All about details
Babitha prefers black and white drawings. She started adding colour to her frames recently. Even then, she uses a few tints. Zebras, frogs, and clowns are constant visitors in her musings. Her next solo exhibition, The Quest for Blue Flower, is being organised by the Kerala Lalithakala Akademi in Thiruvananthapuram on February 22.