The palette as an instrument of change

Sivaranjani V, whose artworks figured in Vaanam 2024, believes the soft tip of the paintbrush should assume the sharp edge of the sword

Updated - May 13, 2024 11:08 am IST

Published - May 13, 2024 11:04 am IST

Sivaranjani V; and (below) two of her art works that were displayed at Vaanam Art Festival 2024

Sivaranjani V; and (below) two of her art works that were displayed at Vaanam Art Festival 2024

Sivaranjani V’s journey from a curious child with itchy crayons to a perceptive artist with a prodigious palette is nothing short of inspiring. Art begins as a self-indulgent pursuit. Even great, meaningful art begins exactly that way, but moves out of that space, proceeding into the marketplace of ideas. It engages with ideas and the zeitgeist of the times. Just out of her teens, Sivaranjani has already discovered this truth. She knows the soft tip of her paintbrush can assume the sharp edge of a sword. And she makes sure it does.

Sivaranjani’s artworks displayed at Vaanam Art Festival 2024 (held around a fortnight ago) engaged with the themes of our times. They resonated with the voice of the art festival, organised by director Pa. Ranjith’s Neelam Cultural Centre at Lalit Kala Akademi as part of Dalit History Month Celebrations. The artists featured at the festival had painted vivid images of suffering encountered by various groups of people.

Sivaranjani’s surrealist art was shot through with social commentary – visitors to the exhibition expressed this thought in different words. Her use of mixed media, including newspaper clippings and textured materials, added layers of depth and meaning to her artwork.

Sample this: an artwork in mixed media on canvas titled “Fish and Fishlore” depicts the resilience and struggles of the fisherfolk, particularly those from Tamil Nadu.

The artwork presents of clippings of articles highlighting the challenges faced by these communities, the daily hardships as well as the shattering incarceration in a foreign prison. Unfazed by these obstacles, the fisherfolk continue with the life and work. Sivaranjani presented this idea through a surreal landscape where freshly caught fish is juxtaposed with a coastal backdrop. Materials like gauze went into evoking the imagery of fishing nets and crashing waves, presenting the struggle and the resilience.

Reflecting on the journey from the crayon books to Vaanam 2024, Sivaranjani says: “I started painting just to keep myself busy. When I was young, I used to take any scrap of paper and any crayon that I could find and simply let my imagination run wild.”

Growing up in Bombay, art had been a solitary pursuit for Sivaranjani, now a resident of R.A. Puram who recently graduated from Women’s Christian College with an undergraduate degree in English. “Art was something I did by myself, without anyone having to ask me,” she reflects. But over time, she realised she wanted her art to be understood and appreciated by others.

“Films by directors such as Vetri Maran and Pa. Ranjith opened my eyes to a whole new world of art”

“I saw others drawing in ways that people understood, and I wanted to do the same,” she recalls. “I wanted to draw in a way that spoke to people, that sparked conversations.”

These aspirations were realised in the unlikeliest of times. Sivaranjani’s creativity had a free run, ironically when she herself was cooped up within four walls. The pandemic lockdowns was a time of experimentation, of pushing boundaries. She switched from crayons to acrylic paints and started painting like there was no tomorrow.

During the lockdowns, movies became her source of inspiration, especially those that made her think deeply.

“Films by directors such as Vetri Maran and Pa. Ranjith opened my eyes to a whole new world of art,” she reflects.

“They made me realise that art can be more than just a visual spectacle — it can be a powerful tool for storytelling and social change.”

Sivaranjani feels she has moved from art that is a solitary pursuit to art that is a participatory phenomenon. Between every brushstrokes, she wants to slip in a message for consumers of her art. “I want my paintings to reach people from all walks of life, sparking conversations and maybe even changing minds.”

Vaanam 2024 not only helped Sivaranjani cross a personal milestone, but also brought the hazy contours of other milestones into view.

Sivaranjani feels enriched by the conversations she had with art enthusiasts at the event.

Thanks to the feedback, she feels she is on the way to increasing her visual vocabulary. Sivaranjani wears another creative hat – as a Bharatanatyam dancer. “Both art and dance are fundamental to me being me,” she explains. “They enrich my understanding of the world and my place within it.”

Clearly, this youngster understands that what you create ends up creating you.

(Sharon Jessica Michael is an intern with The Hindu)

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.