Anu Kalikal’s paintings are playful yet thought-provoking

Anu Kalikal observes life around her and then turns these observations completely on their heads into abstract images and thoughts on canvas.

That’s why Anu’s paintings make for an interesting viewing. The exhibition that features more than 30 of the self-taught artist’s works, painted over the past nine years, is titled ‘Stains of freedom’.

At first sight Anu’s paintings look deceptively simple and full of child-like enthusiasm, what with her playful use of hues and doodles in ink. But look closer and it’s clear that each of these paintings have layers of thought in it.

Take, for instance, the painting ‘Celebration in Chaos’. It depicts colourful figures in merry abandon painted against a cheerful yellow background that is marked with random doodles. “It symbolises how life moves on despite the tragedy next door,” she Anu.

Another one appears to be a pale yellow canvas sprayed with blue ink. “It’s titled ‘Stars at Midnight’ and it represents the inky blue star-lit sky as seen from remote Moonamkallu, a village with no electricity, in the hills beyond Seethathode, a town enroute to Sabarimala. My husband, Byju Thomas, was the parish priest in the village for a while. The village had no electricity and the stars were the only way to see at night, hence the yellow background,” she adds.

While ‘Cocoon and Resurrection’ parallels the life of Christ with that of a butterfly, ‘Death, the yellow bird’ is a parody on people who say that they don’t fear death.

Then there is the abstract ‘Education and God’, a sarcastic take on parents applying undue pressure on their children to perform academically and then praying to god to see their dream for their children to fruition.

“Growing up in the Gulf countries, I have seen many parents scraping together their life-savings to make doctors out of the children, even though they know that the child is not capable of following it through. I find it a sadly humorous situation,” says Anu, a literature graduate from Madras Christian College, who is a freelance graphic artist/ ad content writer. The artist says that she has been painting since childhood but stopped for several years following the demise of her brother, Georgie Anil Abraham. “Everywhere I went all these paintings used to travel with me. It was only in the last year that I really picked up the brush and started painting again,” she says.

Under each painting the artist has added a couple of lines of thought, to add layers to the visual experience. “I prefer not to explain my paintings. I want people to come up with their own inferences about them,” she says. Interestingly, Anu has also used different types of paper canvases – there’s even a painting done on moth-eaten paper – again to add depths of meaning to each painting.

The exhibition is on at Leaf Art Gallery, near Vyloppilly Samskriti Bhavan, Nanthancode, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. It concludes on November 20.