Subtle shades have no place in Raji Pisharasiar's palette. She prefers strikingly bold colours. Fitting, one would think, going by the gravity of issues she deals with. ‘Mayavarnangal', an exhibition of paintings by Raji at the Durbar Hall Art Gallery, is a powerful take on a woman's life in today's society. Freedom, exploitation, education, materialism, pollution, all form part of her canvas.

None of the 22 paintings on display has been titled. “Once you give it a name, the viewer is forced to confine his/her thoughts to the title,” says Raji, who believes it is natural for artists, like writers and activists, to react to the injustices in society.

One of the paintings shows three adivasi women rowing a boat. Painted in a vibrant green with brick red clothing, the women seem to be at peace with themselves. They have CDs for earrings. “Why should we mainstream tribals? Uproot them from their natural homes and depriving them of their ingenious culture? They do not realise the dangers of this mainstreaming,” she says.

Raji portrays the increasing obsession for the yellow metal in a rather unique way — a woman, decked in jewellery, sits with utmost poise. But look closely, and you will find that she has no facial features. Her eyes have been painted yellow, too. In the ‘mad rush' to acquire more gold, women and men are willing to forego their basic humaneness.

Infertility is one of the most unfortunate fallouts of pollution, she says. Her painting shows a lady with a headscarf sits spinning her dreams that take the shape of little dresses flying about around her. Her angst is reflected in her posture and expression.

In one other work, unusual bordering on humorous, Raji paints a goat peering into a room, which has been decorated with a few indoor plants and curtains with floral prints. A small photograph of a goat is hung on the wall. “These days, all houses have tiled compounds. There is no earth. All the greenery finds its way into the four walls, in synthetic forms. Animals, too, would soon be found only in pictures,” she says.

Apart from a few pen drawings, all the other works are acrylic on canvas.

Her turtle series has been quite a hit at exhibitions, says Raji. A painting of a large turtle perched precariously across two pillars, was the starting point. On her routine journey between Aluva and Ernakulam, Raji keenly observed the city slowly eating up the suburbs. “There were so many buildings that were coming up, but the work was slow, yet sure like a turtle,” she says. When she was finishing the painting late into the night, a strange thing happened, she says. Her husband found a turtle that had strayed into their house.

“It was a strange coincidence and from then on, my mind was filled with turtles, different kinds of them. The turtle became my muse,” she says, laughing. Her pen drawings are all of turtles—an intricately amorphous mass of heads, shells and feet.

The show is on till February 10.