Women are often represented by trees in Hindu iconography, as they symbolise shelter, fertility, growth and possibility. Because Kalighat painting originated near the temple of the goddess Kali, female subjects are often shown as strong, in her honour. Kali embodied Shakti – the female active principle of Hindu philosophy. Women are also idolised as goddesses, such as Saraswati the goddess of knowledge and the arts, rather than being portrayed as objects of desire. In contrast, male suitors are often satirically portrayed as ‘lap dogs and charlatans’.
Untitled 15 shows the strength of human bonds — between mother and child, and between lovers. The central female figure is shown supporting her lover and an angelic child while she stoically gazes ahead, her body still and statuesque, straight despite the weight of a branch that grows out of her heart.
Kalam Patua (India b.1962) created the work after the brutal gang-rape of Nirbhaya in Delhi in 2012.
‘It is about how we all seek out women as mother or lover, but respect still eludes her . . . I couldn’t be part of the protests or the candle march . . . so it is my way of registering a protest and contributing to the movement.’
Born into the Patua community of scroll painters and storytellers, Patua is a self-taught contemporary exponent of Kalighat painting, which draws on conventions from West Bengal scrolls and Indian miniature painting. A postmaster in a rural post office in West Bengal, he is one of the few artists painting in this style today.
Patua’s unique watercolours contain elements of autobiography and myth, and reflect on social issues and current news events. Topics include the changing nature of Indian society; dowry deaths and violence against women. He also paints light, humorous works, including a series about working in the postal system.
Exhibited in 'The 8th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art" (APT8) | 21 Nov 2015 – 10 Apr 2016