Artist Sravanthi Juluri who wears her politics on her colourful sleeve tells Zeenab Aneez what makes her latest work so special
Sravanthi Juluri’s art has always been an extension of herself, and she an extension of the canvases she imbues with colour and meaning. Sporting her flaming red bindi, a symbol of Goddess Kali who makes frequent appearances in Sravanthi’s work as a marker for feminine divinity, the artist and feminist sat down with us to talk about her new solo exhibition which is on display at Goethe-zentrum. Her new show, ‘The Journey of a Butterfly’ is no different from her earlier shows but for two reasons; while ‘Jaago Stree’ focussed on the “different atrocities committed against a woman at different stages in her life,” and ‘Awakening the Sakti’ which paid tribute to the spirit of Nirbhaya and also focussed on abuse and violence, ‘The Journey of a Butterfly’ is about moving on and thriving after experiencing this violence. The exhibition also marks Sravanthi’s foray into the world of abstracts. Most importantly, however, it is Sravanthi’s first exhibition after officially and legally closing the chapter of abuse in her life.
“In ‘Jaago Stree’, each painting I made was from a real life experience. This, on the other hand, was a spiritual and meditative process because the minute I finished all the legal battles relating to my case, I felt so liberated,” says the artist.
“I was given a lot of liberty in my own home so it was in just those seven years that I was confined. It made me think of others who spend their entire lives in such confinement and I used the last two months to unleash everything I had kept suppressed for those seven years.” Through this series, Sravanthi wants to convey that abuse and violence need not define the victim’s life thereafter. “Many women tend to think it’s going to last forever but with this show I want people to know that it’s possible to get over it,” says the survivor.
“It was a five year legal struggle and it was a very vicious battle,” she recalls, “It took a lot of inner strength for me to fight till the end. If I were not so strong, I wouldn’t have come out of it feeling so free.”
Although her current show displays abstracts, Sravanthi continues to rely heavily on symbols and metaphor. as ‘symbolism in the work is everything” for her. “The greys and blues represent the darker phases while the yellow and red stand for a woman’s divinity,” she explains. Sravanthihas made it her mission to spread the word that it is possible to transform into something as beautiful as a butterfly even after a period of repression.
All in a day’s work…
l Sravanthi recalls an incident where a woman returned a few of her works saying they no longer went with her newly renovated home. “She then asked if I could do some fresh paintings based on a list of colours prescribed by her interior designer! I returned her money and said, ‘Don’t mind me; I’m just an eccentric artist.”
lOn another occasion, a client who commissioned work visited her studio, saw that she was using black in the painting and made sure the painting was restarted on a fresh canvas, just to make sure the canvas had no traces of the ‘inauspicious’ colour. Such superstitions are not limited to lay buyers alone. “I have had a gallery owner tell me to make sure I don’t use any black or grey so they could have a sell-out show,” says an unperturbed Sravanthi.