Sajitha Shankar’s new series, ‘alterbodies’ is the product of years of evolution and gradual exploration, starting from her vibrant charcoal portraits, particularly of women, her sketches and etchings done at times for works of poetry, her autobiographical works that reveal the power of the feminine as a natural force and often that quarrel with the dominantly patriarchal world to her series of archetypal paintings and drawings that often emerge from myths to address our collective memory and reflect the mystery of the feminine as mother, nature and as creativity itself. Her earlier works like those inspired by Akka Mahadevi and her latest work, an installation on femininity, done for ‘One Billion Rising’ event in two cities in Kerala, can all be seen as certain high points of this exploration.
‘Alterbodies’ attempts to discover the possibilities of the body as a source of energy and creativity. The artist, tired of and rebelling against the male gaze that often reduces the female body to the sheer physicality of its animal existence or a ‘beautiful’ objet du desir, attempts to transcend the sensual and the sexual that can hardly answer the dilemmas of existence or hold the burden of being. Body then comes to be perceived as a constraint on creativity, a frontier to be crossed to realize one’s self.
These paintings look at the alternative possibilities of the body, its playful metamorphoses into what it is not, its reaching out to new destinies. The scope of the biological body thus gets enlarged – even biologically enhanced as some works in the series show- through an unnatural ordering of the organs and an unnatural employment of colors and lines , creating an alternative biology or counter-biology . If Sajitha’s earlier works had embodied the inexplicable capacity of the female figure to effortlessly accommodate and express the artist’s creative insights into anything from the mundane to the metaphysical and critiqued the male representations of the feminine form with their desire-driven gaze, here she grows freer in two ways, first by playfully introducing a kind of disorder in to the concept and construct of the emotional, intellectual and spiritual experiences.
At times she reduces the body to its essentials, at times she transposes its parts , at times the body metamorphoses into trees or flowers or meditates among the mountains , but it is seldom the surface that she looks at it is something deeper, inner, archetypal. Alterbodies while continuous in a way with Sajitha’s Shankar’s earlier creations is also a crucial turning point in her work as an artist and here she is at her contemplative best.