Asher Jay is a bundle of ceaseless energy and nothing brings that out better than her artworks being exhibited under the title ‘Code Red Count Down’. From psychedelic squids and silhouetted rhinos to illuminated whale sharks, her mixed media art addresses serious wildlife issues, allowing the audience to draw their own conclusions.
The New York-based artist and designer uses graphic art sprinkled with physical elements to highlight issues such as poaching, waste management and the plight of endangered animals.
“I juxtapose different issues in one work of art; so far I’ve covered endangered wildlife such as polar bears, tigers, elephants, rhinos and so on. My campaign for elephants was on poaching and since their tusks are valued I made an elephant silhouette with a red tusk,” says Asher. Look closer and you’ll see that the tusk is made up of smaller elephants and dripping blood.
Asher uses minimal tones to put her point across. The elephant canvas is red, white and black — fuss-free, yet so effective. Another canvas has a Whale Shark’s face, glowing with colourful corals. “It’s not just about saving a creature but also the environment it thrives on. I’ve tried to portray coral reef-like colours on the shark to make the point that the reefs are rapidly disappearing. The whale, instead of eating food, ends up eating junk that’s thrown into the sea,” she says.
One billion turtles is a piece that brings out Asher’s artistic skills while powerfully getting her message across. Origami turtles fill up every inch of her canvas. The background is mustard yellow with a tinge of green. The turtles are all made of one dollar bills. “It was a campaign to show that every dollar can save a turtle,” she adds.
Perfection Plus One shows a lion, surrounded by insects that seem to be invading its space — perhaps to show that the lion is surrounded by waste in which insects breed. A zebra with a few red streaks and red-soaked band-aids brings out the urgency of saving these beautiful animals. In another, a tiger, lying down, stares soulfully at visitors to the exhibition, while steady trails of deep red, drip across the painting.
There is yet another work of graphic art depicting turtles swimming in a sea of plastic-like water. “These are complex issues which I try to simplify. People from all walks of life look at them and find meaning in them. People tell me the water looks like plastic and maybe the turtles are getting caught in the plastic bags we throw into the sea. Art should be egalitarian,” explains Asher, “It can then be a democratic educative tool. But I like to be diplomatic and try not to push my agenda. People will look at my paintings and understand what they mean in their own time and way.”
Asher Jay’s artworks are on display at The Park, Nungambakkam High Road till January 16.