Everyday people take centrestage in artist Jitha Karthikeyan’s first solo exhibition at Contemplate Art Gallery

“Every painting here is a voice that talks to you,” says artist Jitha Karthikeyan. Jitha has displayed 11 paintings, each of them the result of an experience that touched her in some way, at her first solo exhibition, ‘An Anthology of Voices’. Jitha picks up the brush when she wants to tell a story. “Some write in a diary. This is my way of doing it,” she says.

As a little girl, Jitha spent her holidays observing the tribal people who lived around her father’s coffee estate at Wayanad. But mushrooming resorts gradually ate up their settlements. Jitha has brought out the pain and anger of these people in a painting at the exhibition at Contemplate Art Gallery. The dark skinned men and a woman with pronounced features, disturb you with their fierce eyes.

The many faces staring out from the canvas in a painting titled ‘Those Who Missed the Dream’ are equally disturbing. The men, Jitha says, represent those possessed by a dream that doesn’t let them sleep. “But they never realised their dreams, like 90 per cent of us,” she says. In those eyes is longing and sadness that Jitha has so beautifully rendered.

Jitha feels that it is in the trains of our country that one comes across the most fascinating people. She has sketched a lonely traveller by a window seat, a puzzled expression in his eyes. “All of us feel let down sometimes…there are some journeys we have to take ourselves,” says Jitha. The lonely traveller represents these uncertain travels.

How would a woman view an unreserved compartment of a train? The unwanted glances, leering faces….in ‘Unreserved Third Class’, Jitha has painted this scene from a woman’s perspective. “They are hunters who hunt women. For them, it is nothing but child’s play,” explains Jitha pointing to ‘She Hunters’ — three men sit bare-chested in front of a pool of red with paper boats floating in it. In another painting wound with lengths of metal wire, Jitha has depicted the people who try to pry into a woman’s life. The barbed wire says ‘Stay back’.

We are often attached to people and things. But, do we really need them to feel a sense of belonging? Jitha explores this concept in ‘Crisis of Belonging 2’, an installation that features old family photographs, sand, a thaali, a rusted key and shards of a pot. A prelude to this is a painting of fishermen arrested for straying into the waters of another country.

The most haunting work of art in the exhibition is the portrait of a little girl in a stark red background. Dressed in rags, her hair dishevelled, the girl looks hard into our eyes. “This is how a sexually abused child feels deep down,” says Jitha. “He/she feels unclean.” The girl’s childish pout and innocent eyes make you wonder, ‘Where have I seen her before?’

‘An Anthology of Voices’ will be on till January 31 at Contemplate Art Gallery, II floor, above Rajshree Ford, Peelamedu. The gallery is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For details, call 90951-23567.

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