Women in Suresh Koothuparamba's works stand out as bold statements, become symbols of strong social and political issues

His women are gigantic. Really huge, but the features seem to fit in nowhere. There are eyes, yes; nose, lips and lovely long hair, but you cannot place their nationality. “Yes, that's the idea, they are just women who can be found anywhere,” says Suresh Koothuparamba, who paints women copiously. Everything about his women is generously endowed. These lone females are at times accompanied by animals, trees and when the pictorial comment gets one step ahead, politics steps in. “Maybe because I have interacted with more women than men,” he reasons, for his preference for ‘ladies'. That's how he titles them: Lady with Nature, etc. Thirty three of his works are on show at Hallegua Hall, Jew Town, Mattancherry. The show is titled ‘Growing with Flow' and it's on till January 14.

Sculpture his mainstay

Suresh was the vice-chairman of the State Lalithakala Akademi and he had done several shows all over the country. For a quarter of a century, he has lived by art alone, Suresh says proudly. “I have done only art and sculpture is my mainstay. That's why you find the elements of sculpture in my works.” His images are flat with large tracts of bold and bright colours that fill the skirts, blouse and bodies of his subjects that are women. Reminiscent of pop art, his women are not shy; they give you the impression that they are out to prove a point. Social issues and politics creep in and there are never traces of it, but bold statements. You see a woman who holds a windmill and you know what recent controversy prompted that. The JCB has pride of place in another. “Women communicating with nature is what I fills my canvases,” says Suresh. The huge 3x4 ft frames do make explicit statements. One woman just lifts a mountain. No, it is has no religious overtones. It only means, according to the artist, that whole mountains have been sold to people who have the means and even nature that belongs to the people of the land are being sold. The sickle in one painting only means that a woman who goes out to harvest paddy does not find it in today's milieu. The oxygen cylinder is a warning to people that in 20 years perhaps we will need that in our homes. Who thought 20 years ago that we would be buying bottles of water like this? He asks in anguish.

A plastic flower and a woman also is a lament on the denuded landscape. The papaya, common plants that are no more common also are found with the multicoloured women. The expressions of the women are interesting. Like the models on the ramp, they do not give away their mind. The mood is sullen, the actions loud. His smaller canvases, those he has done as sketches for magazines have a totally different look. They are more abstract in character and the colour combos differ. They are less loud, merge into one another and the total effect is mild, not in-the-face. Just a few of these are on show.

Adivasi art

Suresh has finished his research on the art and culture of Adivasis. As part of it he made 20 terracotta sculptures, about a foot plus high and they were snapped up. “Only one is left,” he says. The fact that he sells his works at a moderate price has helped him much, he feels. It has always been around half-a-lakh rupees or thereabouts, even if the buyer is a foreigner, and his works are with several collectors overseas.

Suresh teaches at Mahe's Kalagramam and his future plans are to include more people in one frame. That is how his work is evolving. This show is being taken to Delhi next month at the Ashoka Hotel.