Siji Krishnan: ”˜Art thrives when words fail…’

By Neena Badhwar

Siji Krishnan from Kochi, for this year’s Triennial at the National Gallery of Victoria, will be displaying an exquisite panoramic display that spans over 3 metres capturing portraits from her family during their get-togethers across generations ”“ with representatives from infancy, youth, adulthood and advanced age. NGV Triennial is a large-scale exhibition of international contemporary art, design and architecture, featuring 87 projects by more than 100 artists, designers and collectives from 30 countries. It opens in December 2020 and runs until April 2021. Here TIDU talks to Siji about her works that include ”˜father’s portrait’, says Siji: ”˜Art thrives when words fail to comprehend with certain experiences.’

Q. The painting you are showing, ”˜father’s portrait’ is very large and wide in orientation. Despite being titled a portrait, it almost reminded me of landscape. Could you discuss some of the choices you have made in making the work?

Siji: Though I have titled it as ”˜ Father’s Portrait’, it has the dimension of a landscape too. Here the landscape is too hazy and misty akin to a faint memory.   Perhaps my love towards vast seashores and open plains may have some psychological reasons. In fact such landscapes  empty myself, in other words they bring us lot of silence and serenity.

Deep down I feel that we all are a part of a larger family which includes animals , birds, and plants . Like we human being,   they too have their own stories to tell. If we listen carefully and intensely we can endlessly be enchanted by their amazing stories. Art thrives when words fail to comprehend with certain experiences.   Getting plunged in the process, we can tread deeper into our inner world. Most of the time a work is been discovered in the process as a mirror for the self.

My works have quite often fallen back on my childhood memories and growing up in village, and the most precious among all of them were the times I have spent with my father, who has passed away in 2008, since then he has been appearing recurrently in my works. For me,  his intense love and care were more like motherly than that of a father. It is because of these reasons father’s images are often appearing with milk filled breasts, as a manifestation of their feminine love.

I love to thither through the unfamiliar and least explored trails, for they bring more rewards in terms of experiences and revelations than the well treaded ones. In childhood, my father used to take me through unknown ways on his bicycle, now it is in the same way I am indulging in art practice. It is all about doing and nothing is pre-planned.

Q. Has this moment of pandemic and lockdown cast any new light on your outlook on the idea of home? Has this moment affected the approach to your work? if so, how?

Siji: Home is more like an inner feeling than a physical entity. In the beginning if it was the womb of mother , in childhood a world around me was the home,   later as I grew up It got expanded further, now my home has no walls,   I feel at home in the space, no matter wherever I am sitting by simply closing my eyes I can experience an infinite space within.

During this lock down period, I have noticed that people are slowly getting rid off from their busy life and a sort of slowness has started taking over. In the midst of all these adversities we could observe the nature is falling back to her harmony, knowingly or unknowingly we were coming back to our real home. I did a series of portraits, I found all of them from my vicinity, my village friends.  I would like to call this new series as ”˜ inner portraits’, for they were portraying the different states of mind rather than the physical appearance of people.

Of course travelling is a great source of inspiration and I am really missing it, however I found a new way of travelling, travelling within,   it is a great experience and tremendously joyful too..

Q At the moment, I guess you cannot accompany your work. What has it been like, so far, sharing your work with people that may feel so far away?

Siji: I am extremely happy that my works is going to be exhibited in this triennial, at the same time as a person who loves to hear the responses directly   from people   it really saddens me that I cannot travel to there in this new situation and meet people .


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