In focus Sravanthi Juluri engages in a conversation with Vishnupriya Bhandaram and says that her work is a maternal outlook metamorphosing into a spiritual stand.
The setting winter sun slants through the foliage, a German Shepherd barks and a Lhasa Apso follows suit. Chameleons, toads and frogs sit by the unused fountain. There is a faint chirp of a bird and a lull of the passing traffic. It is perhaps reasonable to assume that Sravanthi Juluri’s art derives from her environment, but when you look deeper you realise that her work indeed is of her environment only it’s of a different kind. Her work is about a world where the balance tilts against women. Her exhibition of a series of paintings titled ‘Jaago Stree’ aims to lend a voice to the suffering of women and innocent children. The exhibition coincides with the 16-day activism period that begins with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (November 25).
The paintings try to express the pain that a victim has been through. Sravanthi met a bunch of women who had stories to share — of dowry harassment, molestation, rape, eve-teasing and more. These real-life incidents, personal histories and accounts inspired Sravanthi to put her interpretations and ideas on canvas. The paintings offer as much solace to Sravanthi’s own experiences of dowry as they do to the other victims. “Some of the works are open reflections of what happened to me. I want to also share how I coped, it felt good to talk about my issues. Women congratulated me on being so bold,” she smiles. The paintings depict a loss of innocence, where it is getting sucked out by the evil of the world; “What is suffering? It is the loss of innocence, isn’t it?” she adds.
She recounts the story of a domestic help who suffered great abuse at the hands of her alcoholic husband. “She was terrified. You know it’s about letting the women know that there is life beyond these circumstances,” vents Sravanthi. When popular culture portrays suicide to be the solution after such incidences of crime against women, the women too start believing it. “The change has to come from within. As long as we look at it as apna naseeb (our fate), suicide will continue to appear as the most valuable solution,” she says.
Deconstructing her symbolism
Sravanthi’s paintings are extremely symbolic. Like Frida Kahlo’s work which is a labyrinth of metaphors, where she dealt with the politics of identity, the mental state, sex and infertility; Sravanthi’s paintings present a visual extravagance. Her construction of the sex and the body is extremely relevant and provoking. If you take the acrylic work titled ‘Carnival’ it showcases a faceless ringmaster supervises over a pregnant woman — establishing dominance. In Diner’s Sin — a woman rests on a dinner table as a metaphor for meat to be consumed. Another powerful work titled Extraction symbolises the gradual extraction of independent thought from a woman by a society that is masculine in nature. The visual narrative comprising 20 paintings and installations ends with a depiction of Godess Kali as the symbol of strength to overcome. In the installations, you’ll see a representation of a fish tank representing the ocean, where the fish are the women and on a reflective surface, when you (the viewer) peer in, you see yourself stained in blood. A professional stain-glass artist, Sravanthi learnt art at UC Berkeley and this is her third solo exhibition.