Re-imagining the plebian through art

Paintings, sculptures, photographs and sketches highlight of the exhibition


February 10, 2022

/ By / New Delhi

Re-imagining the plebian through art

Beautiful combination of the CMYK colours used by the artist to create images of the sky

Art is one of the most important forms for expressing thoughts through creativity. Shanthi Kasivishwanathan, an artist based in Mumbai, created sketches, paintings, sculptures and artistic photos of dirt and algae, largely inspired by her surroundings and motivated by the surrogate lifestyle during the lockdown.

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“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life,” renowned Spanish painter Pablo Picasso once said. Perhaps inspired by his words, Shanthi Kasiviswanathan, a visual artist and photographer based in Mumbai, created art and sculpture drawn from everyday life and surroundings, especially since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The tale of 23 sketches

Like over 1.4 billion other Indians, Kasiviswanathan, too, was locked indoors, in her case at her parents’ house, when the government suddenly announced a stringent lockdown in March 2020 and shut down all transport. When the lockdown was announced Kasivishwanathan’s drawing tool were in studio away from her reach. With a lot of domestic chores, without any contact with the outside world and no access to her drawing tools took a toll on her mental health. She, however, did have access to pencil and paper and thinking about her stand as an artist locked away from her tools, she sketched her her father watching television in her notebook on first day of lockdown.

This did the trick for her and she had found her way to deal with the lockdown. Over the 21 days of lockdown, the artist drew 23 sketches of her parents and their lives. “Each day’s drawing brought out an aspect of their character or represented a slice of their life together as a couple. I noticed that life in the twilight years winds down to a gentle routine and an easy intimacy. Whilst the world outside was crazy and chaotic, life within our home was ensconced in a gentle rhythm. The routine of daily life became an anchor in troubled times, bringing sanity and peace. My daily drawings developed into a series documenting the life of my parents which I call the ‘amma and appa diaries’. Superimposing these drawings on the front page of the day’s newspaper adds another layer to the narrative by showcasing the ‘parallelism of life’,” says Kasiviswanathan.

The tale of paintings

Shanthi Kasivishwanath used CMYK (the basic colours in the colour pallet) to create the beautiful paintings of the sky

Before Covid-19 outbreak, Mumbai was one of the most polluted cities in the country, she says, but the lockdown brought about a radical improvement in the air quality. “In Mumbai, you can’t really see the sky. The sky is always grey due to the pollution and in the city is unappealing. However, when the lockdown was announced all the traffic in the city had vanished. People clicked great pictures of the sky and put them on social media. I asked a few people for their permission to paint a picture of their photographs. I created the paintings and used cyan, yellow, magenta and black colours, the fundamental colours of the colour pallet,” adds Kasivishwanathan.

The tale of photographs

Kasivishwanathan subtly manipulated the dirt on this wall to create the photograph called ‘The March’

Apart from the paintings and sketches the artist also finds beauty in everyday life and clicks subtle artistic pictures of walls and outdoor surfaces in Mumbai. The artist slightly manipulates the dirt, dust and algae on such surface and creates a mesmerising visual for the onlookers.

“Nature generously swarms over these surfaces with algae and fungi, marking her presence. These natural interventions, along with the wear and tear of time, create interesting outcomes. These walls are dynamic entities and their beauty is transient. I have done a minimal intervention to the photographs that adds meaning to them. By intervention, I mean…I added a spot of colour or a line,” Kasiviswanathan tells Media India Group.

The tale of sculptures

The sculptures created by the artist

The multi-talented Shanthi Kasivishwanathan has also created Amplify your Voices, a series of sculptures that she made along with her artist friends Manish Waghdhare and Neha Pullarwar created the sculpture series. “The Hathras incident (where a young Dalit woman was raped and murdered) impacted me greatly and I started creating work around ‘Abuse’ in general. Also, all of us have faced abuse in some form during the course of our life. Both men and women. However, being a woman, I have used a stylised penis that looks like a weapon. Influenced by the sculptor Giacometti who created ‘The Disagreeable Object’, I created these sculptures,” recounts Kasivishwanathan.

“Abuse is about power and control. Those who are abused need to be encouraged to speak up without shame. Hence, I used the instruments of communication and amplification to say – raise your voice and engage in the discourse. There are five sculptures in this series – A microphone, a bugle, a loudspeaker, a magnifying glass and a satellite dish.

This body of work could also be read as the patriarchy controlling the narrative on abuses,” she says.

Kasivishwanathan’s works during the lockdown, including her paintings, sketches and photographs were displayed in an art exhibition she named Responses | Inquiries | Reaction at the the Jehangir Art Gallery in Mumbai earlier this month.



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