“She used to wear the typical starched white chatta mundu, mekka mothirams on her ears, and a gold rosary and a black scapular around her neck. Nowadays, hardly anyone wears these,” says Elizabeth Davis of her work ‘Ammamma’, inspired by her grandmother.
The work is on display at the Muscat-based artist’s maiden solo show, ‘Interwoven’, at David Hall in Fort Kochi. It offers a different perspective on Kerala, where she recreates common images of the State using various techniques such as weaving, paper folding, burning, photography and painting. The result is refreshingly different.
In ‘Kalavandi’ (Bullock carts), a 20x16-inch mixed media on canvas, a print of a bullock cart pulled by a pair of bulls is fragmented, mixed and matched, to appear as many bulls and carts and wheels. “This adds to the forward movement of the cart and there is a feeling of kinetic energy. The mix of mud tracks, trees and wheels also add to the swaying bumpy movement one gets while sitting in the cart. These carts, from my childhood, are now rarely seen,” says the artist, turning nostalgic.
The Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica in Fort Kochi has a three-dimensional appointment where triangular ridges of the coloured print of the grand church is pasted onto another colour print of the same. The backwaters of Fort Kochi with the Chinese nets and boats come alive subtly through a criss-cross of black and white and colored prints of the scenery.
‘Interwoven’ takes viewers through a slice of bygone Kerala, but unlike the techniques of yore, Elizabeth’s idiom offers a unique interpretation of the old and the obvious. Done on canvas, the frames have disjointed prints often pasted over with woven palm leaves, a common craft of Kerala. She uses burning, defacing and reconstructing images to give them a new identity, aspect and understanding. “These can be platforms for further abstract art,” she says
Interestingly, the mixed media works in the exhibition were done during the 10 days she quarantined herself on arrival from Muscat in January 2022. Isolated in “an upstairs room” she revisited old images, photos, prints and conceptualised the works that took her through her childhood, growing years, famous personalities of Kerala, family, people and the iconic architectural legacy of Kochi.
The famous men and women of Kerala are presented on “morams” or the winnowing woven tray, a part of a traditional Kerala kitchen. Kathakali dancers meld in a frame( Mukha Mukhi) presenting a matted pastiche, creating a mysterious aura of things left unsaid or said differently.
A charming handmade sketch book, ‘Kiki Goes To Corniche,’ at the show, is a recent work, done for her granddaughter, Kiara. An interactive travelogue for children, the illustrations are made using pen, watercolors and paper craft.
A marine biologist and a banker for several years, Elizabeth returned to her passion for art in 2015. “I finally found my niche,”says the artist, who has created a space for herself in the Oman Art Scene.
The show will conclude on April 26.