Imagination can be a tricky deal. It’s got all this limitless possibility, and yet, it can be so confining. Jijo Kuriakose
He thought of the picture that comes to one’s mind about same sex intimacy. Seemed to him that the picture would be rather limited. Why didn’t, for instance, one think of two partners of the same sex sitting together, having their breakfast? Or reading. Or doing nothing at all. That's all part of being partners, isn’t it? Living together means living all your moments together, waking up, bathing, cooking, eating, driving, fighting, loving.
He had brought this idea into a series called Homomorphism two years ago. But Jijo decided to keep doing it, and invite other artists to join. So, the second of the series will be put together by Queerala, an organisation for the welfare of the LGBTQI community, in Kochi. Beginning on 14th July and ending on the 21st.
“Imagine two men sitting together. Are they homosexual? And if they are, how do they behave? How do they perceive others?”Jijjo asks. Men don’t often realise that they are ‘looked at’- ogled, as women are. By other men. “And women too don’t often know that other women check them out.”
Jijo had expressed some of these concerns before. Heterosexual people do not introduce themselves as heterosexual. But homosexual people are expected to say it out loud. It is treated as a lie if you don’t, Jijo has noticed. He acknowledges how the passage of time has helped him come out. If he had been born 30 years ago, he may not have come out or even realised that he was gay.
It is during his last exhibition that he understood how much such a show could help. There was an anonymous comment in the visitor’s book. Someone had written that if this show had happened ten years ago, they would not have married a heterosexual person.
“You can make speeches, you can make films. You can also talk through art. Every little thing helps, to reach out, to take the message to more people,” Jijo says.
Joining him are Pragya Pallavi from Mumbai, Aishwaryan Kumaran from Bengaluru, Arvin Ombika from Mauritius, Santanu Dutta from Kolkata, Sandeep TK from Bengaluru, and Mahesh M from Kochi.
“Last time we had not named everyone, but this time we decided to ahead and do that,” Jijo says, with the confidence the last two years have given him.
He passes on numbers of other artists. “You should talk to some of them. To know, to understand.”
So, we called Arvin. Arvin from Mauritius who came to Shantiniketan a couple of years ago. That’s where he met Shantanu, who would go on to become his partner, and who is also part of the exhibition. “Mauritius is a multicultural country. In India, we were buried low. And focussed more on the work," he says.
There are a few upcoming series, Arvin says. ‘Plato's Symposium’ and ‘Either I am a nobody or I am a nation’ are two of them. He is trying to show liberation through music and flowers, he says. Happiness and celebration. “Not excluding heterosexuals,” he adds.
Aishwaryan, a Palakkad man who moved to Bengaluru, has another aspect to show. “I did not want to show the intimacy, but some other aspect. My work is about my own experience, when I think ‘should I or shouldn’t I?’. I am comfortable with who I am but don't want to declare it. And then I meet these people, I get comfortable with the community,” he says.
He shows the photo of a sticky candy he painted. A lollipop. There are flies flying into it. “It is an image that attracts you to want to have it but it is messy and sticky. And the flies want to get out but they are stuck.” It is also a rainbow of colours. Aishwaryan wants to see if people will get it. His way of expressing without spelling it out.
The only art pieces of lesbian intimacy are from Pragya, who comes from Mumbai. “I am lesbian,” she gives the simple explanation. “I just want to show the emotional or psychological relationship between a lesbian couple, it’s very much like for any other couple. I want to show the closeness in your relationship.”
She’s done digital work for her illustrations, with some kind of modernity. “My work illustrates how in love, the energy that comes with it is invincible,” Pragya adds.
Homomorphism will begin at the Kerala History Museum in Edappally, in the presence of three guests – Kavitha Balakrishnan, art critic, Rekha Raj, Dalit rights activist, and Aditi N, of the History Museum.
Below are some more works from the exhibition: