‘Othering Spaces’ delves into those spaces that are often subconsciously hidden away

From a bird's eye view of a train trundling through the picturesque landscapes of Uttarakhand to the peaceful solitude of a front porch chitchat that is common in every household, art can express a lot. And it is this expression that is on display at La Gallery 360 in Thiruvananthapuram, on the theme ‘Othering Spaces’.

Featuring three artists, Sunil Lal, Leena Raj and Aji Adoor, the exhibition tries to delve into those spaces that are often subconsciously hidden away or neglected as we try to conform to the unspoken rules of conduct set down by society. While Aji’s paintings depict sprawling scenery and Leena's focus remains on the concept of home, Sunil chooses to portray on canvas the feminine side of the male psyche, a side that is usually disowned due to fear of not being accepted by the masses.

“My work depicts people we see every day. No matter how we may try to portray ourselves, we all have a feminine and masculine side and there is no harm in accepting that. Men wearing bright red pants,visiting beauty salons to get themselves groomed or get rid of unibrows are not given a second glance these days. Today wearing necklaces and getting piercings are not restricted to women alone and that is something I show in my paintings,” says Sunil.

Life in detail

Apart from the depiction of men, Sunil’s work also portrays life around us in astonishing detail. His subjects sit on benches discreetly reading magazines and lie around with languid ease preparing for a slumber in works aptly named ‘I Am With My Favourite Magazine’ and ‘After Lunch’. The mobile chargers in the background and sparse plastic furniture also convey the attention to detail. “These depict the kind of settings I saw growing up, how people are much more relaxed and at ease in parts of the State that are less developed. However, that has not prevented them from taking an interest in the mobile phone. Those are used like toys today,” he says with a smile.

Compared to Sunil’s work, Leena’s paintings are sombre. Her works are centred on the home, how almost everything we do is somehow linked to the development of our own homes and the way apartments have become popular in the state. She draws parallels between apartments and bird’s nests, comparing the ‘disposable’ nature of the two. A nest with satellite dishes attached to it and yet another one shaped like an apartment building with senior citizens wasting away inside drive home the point perfectly. “Home is a concept I find worthy of exploring in detail. We see how birds build nests with meticulous care and then abandon them later when they see fit. In a way, we all live in such nests, except that ours have multiple entrances and we spend our time inside watching television,” she explains.

A look at Aji’s handiwork reminds one of the sights seen out of train windows on long cross country journeys, which the man himself admits are his inspiration. “I did my masters degree at Chamarajendra Academy of Visual Arts in Mysore, and began travelling in earnest since then. My travels across the Himalayas and the experience of a train ride returning from the Kumbh Mela were turning points. When I returned home after seeing so much of the country, my perspective changed, and that is what I try to show on canvas,” he says, while pointing out the minuscule details in his paintings, like the embers from a forest fire and the little halo adorning the head of a flying owl. The exhibition also features a video made by him that shows some of the scenes from his Himalayan journeys.

The amount of creativity and insight that has gone into the works on display can be a lot to take in, but that is something Bipin Balachandran, curator of the exhibition, is more than happy to help with. “The factor that brings the work of these three artists together is how they explore these spaces in their own unique ways. For Sunil, it is his narrative takes on his surroundings, for Leena her unique perspective of home and for Aji, his experiences outside his native State. These are all things that apply to all of us in some way.”

The exhibition, which began on this Wednesday at the La Gallery 360 premises at Nanthencode and will continue is on till the end of the month.