Sajitha hopes to use the grant to preserve her work against the ravages of Kerala’s humidity.

Kerala artist bags prestigious grant for painting the politics around womens bodies
news Art Thursday, April 27, 2017 - 18:19

This day

Colours burning bright

fire of bright colours,

Licks every part of my body.

Writes Sajitha R Shankhar in her poem Echoes of this day. Focused on the link between art and the body, Sajitha views her body as a political tool. And the images she creates on canvas are an extension of her own body, she says.

Sajitha, an artist, acclaimed at the national and international level, has won the prestigious Pollock-Krasner Foundation grant of $15,000, on April 14. 

With an artistic journey spanning over three decades, Sajitha says that the news of the grant “was like a wave in a calm sea”. Only a few other artists from Kerala such as Murali Nagapuzha and Pradeep Puthoor have won the grant prior to Sajitha.

The grant is given to those with “recognisable artistic merit” and “demonstrable financial need”.

Speaking to The News Minute, Sajitha said, “Getting through the selection was tough. They scrutinise everything – if we are genuine, dedicated and serious professionals, and how passionate we are towards art.” 

Her primary concern is to create a safe storage space for her works. Her studio, ‘Gowry’, which she has set up in the tribal area of Kallar in Thiruvananthapuram has developed into a space where like-minded people can gather. “But even at Gowry I can’t keep the paintings, as they would get damaged due to the humidity there,” Sajitha said.

Sajitha has done more than 30 solo shows, nationally and internationally. She is also the winner of the French Scholarship for Artist Residency in Cite-des arts Paris, travel grant from Salamanca University Spain and travel grant from Queens Hall Arts Centre-UK, to name a few. A figurative artist, Sajitha Shanker’s work Alterbodies, created in 2013, is one among the most noted ones. This series of charcoal portraits and archetypal paintings, “tried to discover alternatives possibilities of the body”, says Sajitha.

In a book-length catalogue accompanying this work, Gail Levin, a New York professor of Art History, writes, “She started with a figure drawn on paper that looks at first glance like a skeleton of a woman seated in Yogic position. It is, however, a self-portrait with her body stripped of flesh.”

Collectors of Sajitha’s art range from the National Gallery of Modern Art in Delhi and Bangalore, to the American playwright Eve Ensler, who commissioned Sajitha to create installation for the ‘One Billion Rising’, a campaign to end violence against women, held in Kochi in 2013.

Sajitha says that she feels she bears resemblances to the early Kannada woman poet Akka Mahadevi, and incorporates representations of the poet in her work. “Akka Mahadevi vanished in the forest at a young age. She reemerges in my paintings, while I reconstruct her sharp criticism of the social construction of the body and its spectacles,” she says.

The 50-year-old artist who draws her energy from meditation says, “The body is very delicate and we should handle it with love. Through meditation I am getting deeper into myself and my thoughts. I use my body as a political symbol. It’s my body which is reflected in my works, I am sketching my body in my paintings,” Sajitha says.   



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