Panchamukhi explores womanhood in all its colours, forms and moods

It is a woman's world out there, at the Kasthuri Sreenivasan Art Gallery on Avanashi Road. Five artists, Asma Menon, Lakshmi Srinath, Manisha Raju, Razia Tony and Thejo Menon present their work in an exhibition of paintings, they call Panchamukhi.

Each artist tells her story differently. While Manisha dwells on introspection and reflection, Lakshmi ponders on the meaning of universe and creation. Razia chooses to personify nature through her women while Thejo paints about the power of love, nurturing and human bonding. In Asma Menon's case it is the joy of life that shines through her exuberant canvasses.

According to Manisha, women have a lot more to do today than they ever did. “Her private space is shrinking, and she has to find that within herself.”

Eyes wide shut

That explains why the beautiful women in her paintings have their eyes half shut, as if looking inward. There is detachment from the world around. “I call it self-interaction,” says Manisha.

While Manisha looks for peace within, Lakshmi Srinath finds meaning to life by revisiting the primordial. She uses deeply elemental and at the same time conventional motifs to express her thoughts. Ellipsoid and triangles, representing eternity and infinity figure in her works. The colours are stark and dramatic with plenty of turmeric and kumkum - symbols of faith - all tied up with the yellow and white threads – depicting continuity, connectivity, procreation, etc. Lakshmi is inspired by human faith. “Even in the most hi-tech of surroundings, in the midst of progress, evolution and growth you still find people worshipping at wayside shrines. That little piece of stone under a tree has so much faith infused in it.” Lakshmi's paintings are acrylic on canvas and wood.

It is the same faith and creation Thejo Menon paints, but differently. Her forms are human. Fisherwomen at the fish mandi, lovers under a tree, friends and so on are her subjects. Thejo likes to experiment with textures she says (she has used banana fibres in one of her works) and is vibrant in the use of colours. In mixed media and acrylic some of her paintings have insets that give it a three dimensional effect.

The colours tone down somewhat in Razia Tony's works. Her women are gentle, again reflective, sometimes timid and uncertain, and always accepting.

Sense and sensuality

Says Razia “I am amazed at how my paintings have evolved along with me. When I see my earlier works they now seem reactive, sometime even angry and rebellious. May be it is an age thing. As you grow older you see things differently and in a calmer manner,” she smiles. Nature is feminine and the works explore Nature's beauty, sensuality, and mystery. Razia calls women the primal force of nature and the warm summers, bountiful rains, vibrant autumns and cool winters she paints personify womanhood to her.

Asma Menon's paintings seem an extension of herself - bubbly, ebullient and with a sense of humour. There is a painting of a turtle, done in unapologetically bright blues, greens, reds and other cheerful shades. Asma feels we should take a page out of the turtle's book. Steady is the by word she says, and adds “Don't forget to take a break and slow down”. All of Asma's loves figure in her work. One of her paintings is titled Moonlight Lady after a favourite song, Thumbalina after her favourite childhood story and Curtain Call a throwback to her work with theatre and the stage. Secret depicts a mother and daughter. Asma's daughter would enjoy lying down with her mother and once the lights were out, all the little secrets and confessions would reveal themselves! “I am not a feminist, but I am a woman and enjoy everything about being a woman”, she declares expansively.

That explains her happy colours. “We are like plants. If we are put into a pot, we will flourish for a while and fade away. But, let us be natural and we will take root, grow, flourish and spread colour,” she says. Her paintings that she calls Birds of a Feather,are symbolic too, she says tongue-in-cheek. “You know how women are referred to as birds, chicks, etc. Well, here they are in all their splendour, grandeur and beauty.”

Asma, Lakshmi, Manisha, Razia and Thejo will be available for interaction with visitors to the exhibition. They will also be painting at the gallery. The exhibition is on from November 26 to 29 between 9.30 a.m and 6.30 p.m. The paintings are also available for sale. For further details call: 0422- 2574110.