Once I begin to work on a painting, a chain of thought comes to the fore and I feel a compulsion to develop ideas through an open-ended series of works: some people might interpret this as a form of escapism but I see it rather as a conviction in the validity of art itself. Before actually beginning a painting, I always have a particular theme in mind. But through the working process this develops and changes as my own relationship with the canvas or water color is formed. To hold conviction in my own mind a work must begin to ask questions to me about our very existence. I believe, therefore, that when the dialogue between a work of art and the artist is deep-rooted, the presence of the artist in that work is ever-present. When considering aesthetics for me this is one of the most important and telling aspects of art. From the works of great masters, such as Massaccio, Rembrandt, Kathe Kollwitz and Emily Nolde, specific moods and feelings are evoked with such sincerity that we can also relate such emotions to our own lives. If a work retains our concentration and attention and can speak to us of moods and moments of our inner selves. I believe that it is only then that it is elevated from “decoration” to “art”. For: me, only art can lift and speak to us in such a way and this is the reason that through the centuries has come to shape civilization. The works, which I have done, until now are, I feel, just a beginning. Born and brought up in Kerala, the lifestyle of villagers, the landscape of the backwaters and the art forms of dance and music, like Padayani Theyyam, all continue to hold nostalgia for me that also have a relevance to my painting. In 1984, I travelled to Santiniketan and during that visit met Mr. K.G. Subramaniam. I was much impressed by his work and his overall approach to art. Another artist who has held particular importance for me is Mr. K.C.S. Panicker whose early works such as “Humanity”, I was drawn to since I was a student.
My individualism slowly emerged in the form of a deep concern for the status of women, the reality in which I lived, the meaning of existence. My earlier works something strongly to me regarding the potential of women. Many women who have given away too much of themselves talk of recovering their losses, of recovering their earlier freedom, and surprisingly enough, though I began my work with a strong bias towards women. I gradually discovered that men were also victims of the same system they had created... and at a point it was difficult to differentiate between men and women as victors and victims of a vicious system that had influenced the human psyche over a long period of time.” My work known for bearing within them the traces of my lifes journey, but in this expressions I undertake a far more conscious journey into my inner self - into the secret corridors carved by life’s incessant chisel. Past a period of intense disharmony between the inner and outer selves, these days evoke a certain clarity that reminds one of the clean lights that streams down from the clean, freshly washed sky, into a bright dustless world after a heavy stormy down pour. These unfold in moments of intense self-reflection, when my questions sail along the streams of my inner, self, to discover hidden recesses which I have been taught to ignore or forget. In these little hiding places, I find buried treasures - memories of other women, their unique energies, their intuition, in sight. This inner journey provoke me to question the lines that divide the human from nature... my images however, side-step orientalist or primitivist stereo types. Rather they protest against locking the human and the natural in to water-tight compartments, and instead project the vision of a third, combined matrix of energy, which, however, is not simply sum of its parts. Every one of my images reminds the viewer of the immense spiritual consciousness and cultural essence that every mortal carries within. From my series of self portraits elements encourage one to look beyond the purely formal in search of clues to the articulation of identity as an artist and as an independent woman. The expressive potential and ultimate mystery inherent in the human face. What I want to show in my work is the idea that hides itself behind so called reality.
Sajitha Kumari Karunan
Studio: ‘Gowry’, 26 Kallar P O, Vithura via, Ponmudi Road Trivandrum, Kerala-695 551, India