Saturday 7 January 2017

Printmaking allowed her to edit and impose through the use of various surfaces and troughs created by deeper etches.

( TS/File photo/facebook/GalleryChemould )

In a society where gender decides on your freedoms a certain inhibition of one’s self manifests in a loss of self ownership. Many woman face such an existence in South Asia, their lives decided by male counterparts, most decisions forced, misogyny manifests mostly in violent forms of suppression.

Tejswini Sonawane born in a family of sisters, often lost the freedoms she enjoyed within her home once she stepped out on to the streets of Sholapur, her hometown. Encouraged by few for her uncles she joined the Sholapur Drawing College to pursue a career in art. She was unsure with her vocation and her practice until she enrolled for a Masters in Printmaking at the Sir JJ School of Art. Initially living in a hostel for girls she began to evaluate her life and the role of her father in her decisions. 

Then she began morphing self portraits by super-imposing images of animals. Printmaking allowed her to edit and impose through the use of various surfaces and troughs created by deeper etches. Sonawane dislikes animals but she uses their forms to distort human faces, she believes misogyny expresses and inhabits in our expressions through animal metaphors. Screeches of a cat became her expression of revolt against a patriarchal wish that disregarded her as an artist but rather wished she were married to man she did not know.

Graduating from the JJ School of Art she lost her place at the hostel and relocated to Dharavi to live among her relatives. Here she lived within the stink of putrid drying animal skin reminding her of Sholapur. Her community the Dhor, traditionally animal skin tanners who purchase skin from butchers, tanning them for cobblers. Within a small tenement living with her uncle’s family people were up-close throughout the day. Thats when she began working on her solo, sometimes etching scenes from her days babysitting her sister’s daughter entertaining her with conversations she strung up with a feral cat, or making portraits of a weeping younger sister - who was often ridiculed by others for her weight.

82 gum-bites, deep etches and dry points form the body of a solo debut using morphed animals that are surreally stretched. Portraits of cats, cows and dogs take on human anatomies while their expressions inhabit ours. Grisaille and rust renderings of colour remind us of the zinc and copper plates used to register these images, giving them a tonal quality that softens their dramatic content. The ‘Jatakas’ became popular in Maharashtra as tales that followed a courageous socio-political movement against caste exploitation. These Buddhist tales through animals reminded humans of their virtues and failings, Sonawane somewhere revisits these traditions to narrate stories of comic ignorance.

Sumeshwar Sharma

Clark House Initiative