Babitha Rajiv, in her debut solo show, paints through sarcasm and humour the many foibles of man
In a recent talk, ‘Everything Could Be Art, Everyone Could Be An Artist’ former artistic director of Kochi Muziris Biennale, Bose Krishnamachari spoke of the latent artist within each one of us. Babitha Rajiv, a homemaker with a passion for art, discovered her talent early on but gathered confidence only in her mid-thirties to hold her debut, solo exhibition of works, Milieu on at Eka Art Gallery, Kunnumpuram.
The 38 untitled small works, in pencil, charcoal and lead, are a strong narrative on man and his foibles. Babitha is candid and scathing in some frames, forgiving and easy in others but her tone and tenor is one of sarcasm and humour. They could be likened to the works of Dryden and Pope in poetry and to works by Jonathan Swift in prose.
She has imaginatively created Lilliputian figures donning clown caps representing man. Her protagonists are at odds with nature. The man-versus-nature tale is told in witty frames in which the tiny figures trapeze through leaves and flowers, shrubs and butterflies getting entangled, falling, fighting, jeering, destroying and even at times finding love. “The basic instinct of man is to bring each other down, to destroy. We always end up doing foolish and silly things,” says Babitha who learnt the art of drawing and painting by herself. A student of Biology and Zoology, Babitha’s drawings of plants and insects, of nature, is dioramic with delicate shading. She has drawn a variety of flora and fauna. Mushrooms feature prominently, often ballooning with dark spots to convey her disdain and wit. A close-up of a mushroom slide, done in deft strokes, has a chiaroscuro effect.
Each frame has a different story and when put together too the narrative holds well. The viewer can revel in every frame and needs to take a careful look to find the witty subtleties. “The story that I am telling is suited for small works and the viewer can interpret it his or her way,” says Babitha who assists her filmmaker husband Rajiv Arryan with storyboard drawing.
Her clownish people are minute and in constant motion. In one work they are reading books, but Babitha says that despite the learning, man remains a fool. “On the one hand they try and support nature while on the other hand they destroy it,” she says. In another work the women are gawked by men and in yet another piece, the men are caught in a traffic snarl, drawn cleverly in meandering climbers and curled leaves. At closer look the traffic is due to an accident caused by a foolish move. Babitha’s indictment is severe in some works especially in one where she has the men flying on broomsticks, “like witches”. There is a war between two tribes in another piece and in one funny interpretation the men have shorn plants of leaves and worn them as a wig, “a bushy leafy hair wig”. Babitha says she does not plan either her drawing or her story telling but it develops as a spontaneous simultaneous expression.
Milieu is on till December 19 and the gallery timings are 9 a.m. to 7.30. p.m.