Her paintings are dream-like and poetry flows from them just as visuals flood your imagination when you read her verses. Multifaceted but more passionate about painting, Philadelphia-based Shobha Menon was in the city, her home town, where she hopes to exhibit her work in the near future. Her new project is a series on women depicted in the epics. She looks at them from her own vision of life. “My attempts are to demystify moral notions, tear away the veil of holiness.”
She looks beyond the textual interpretation of women in mythology and shows how ‘his’ stories are not ‘her’ stories. How they were victims of male fancies and fantasies and tools to fulfil their pride and prejudice even as tradition paints them in colours of idealised women hood.
Shobha’s hands lead Gandhari, Draupadi, Madhavi and Sita out of the epics into their own world of introspection.
She is looking forward to showing her works in Delhi and Kochi. “I visit Kochi every year to connect with my root reality and visit art galleries and see as many performing arts as possible.” And when moved by them, paintings take shape. “When I saw Lokadharmi’s play ‘Madhavi’, I wanted to paint her,” says Shobha. Chandradasan is doing a play on Draupadi in which Shobha’s paintings will be incorporated. She is working on them. “I am creating nine large paintings (48” x 30”) for the play.”
They will be part of the narrative which is Krishna-centric and viewed in contemporary light. More than a production exhibition, the frames will serve as background, comment, create a particular atmosphere and link other episodes. Shobha is working on the series which is more of Pahadi and Kangra style of the north but recreated on a larger canvas. “I was the art director for Chandradasan’s first play ‘Theruvujatha’ based on Badal Sircar’s text and have known him since my Kalapeedom days in the mid 1980s.”
This time, her visit to Kochi coincided with the workshop of Mazhavillu, the children’s theatre of Lokadharmi. She was invited to do a session on the basics of art.
“Limited by space and facilities, we created masks using paper and recycled or casually available materials and objects. The kids were very clever and came out with mixed media masks. It was a great experience for me. The children explored their creativity and enjoyed playing with clay. It seemed like they had suddenly found freedom and joy when the clay took the shapes they desired.”
Though there is talent, art in India lacks many facilities that are available in the West, she says. Kerala’s art scenario is changing for the better with more and more art galleries coming up but artists have not ventured into setting up one. Unfortunately in Kerala, professional art groups don’t have a common space for interaction unlike in Philadelphia where there are many art centres that provide space for fine arts and performing arts at the same venue.
Shobha has studios at Philadelphia and San Fransico and does shows throughout the year. After completing MFA in Art History and Aesthetics from MS University, Baroda, and PhD, she taught art for two years. Later she worked for about 10 years in the IT field as graphics and IT consultant. She also had a stint with animation, web design and development. She believes her experience in all the fields helped her look at society and the world with a wider perspective.
“Right now, I am exhibiting at MCGOPA-SPP galleries at Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, and Indo-American Council’s curated art show, Erasing Borders 2011, in New York. I am presenting a solo show “Behind the Fences…’ in Philadelphia from July 26 to August 4.”
Shobha likes to capture moods and emotions, internalised memories of myths and narratives, and the complexities and subtleties of human experience.
“The concept of core images that represent psychological dynamics has been important in relating my work with mythology. My works are best understood as a cultural construct with their own idioms formed by some universal values.” Though she prefers oil, she enjoys exploring other media. She loves looking at empty canvases and colours and enjoys the sensation of letting life’s mysteries and stories swirl around her. “Ultimately, I desire the visual work to offer a defined reading of my thoughts — past and present and a visual sensibility, a deep feeling to connect the viewer to the work.”
Shobha plans to return to her hometown for good.
Courtesy; The New Indian express daily on 4th June 2011.
Note; Shobha Menon is part of Lokadharmi and she had designed the brochures, posteres website, and booklets of the group. she had documented the productions, and she is also a member of the director board of Lokadharmi.