Performers – Solo exhibition

by Lalitha Lajmi

She places windows often within domestic spaces, windows that look into landscapes of the mind. These she depicts as artist self-portraits. Lajmi was born to a poet father and a poly-linguist writer mother in 1932. Through a vocabulary of an unequal distribution of images and perspectives within the same plane she narrates a layered history of the modern Indian woman in the decades that followed independence.  She returned to her career as an artist after her marriage and the birth of her children in an exhibition of the Progressive Artists Group in 1960 at the Artist’s Centre Bombay.  

A year later her mentor KH Ara, who had included her in the exhibition,  gave her the opportunity to do her first solo show.  Being one of the few women artists of that period, Lalitha managed her career along with the responsibilities of a family and that of an art teacher within a school.  She returned to her home late in the evenings.

This and the lack of sunlight curtailed her painting. Having studied the art of intaglio and etching through government funded program for evening classes at the Sir JJ School of Art, from 1973 to 1976,  Lalitha set up a press within her kitchen.  Working at night using electrical light, through an interesting use of grisaille and sepia tones, she began making prints that later were to travel to an exhibition that took place simultaneously in West and East Germany in 1983, supported by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations.  Images in her works are metaphors with multiple references to relationships,  dream sequences and multiple identities.

The performer- often the clown – represents our own domestic performance of roles we are expected to play,  the mask – our concealed identities through which we put up our multiple appearances,  and the skull a vanitas to our short life. Drawn from her personal history she creates a visual biography  that is left to interpretation oh her viewers.  Presenting dichotomies that are both humourous and tragic, akin to the stories her brother, the legendary director Guru Dutt often narrated through his films. Her works are held in the collection of the National Gallery of Modern Art,  British Museum and CSMVS Museum Bombay.