In a world where men confidently occupy public spaces, their sense of entitlement greatly contrasts with the constant unwanted attention that women face. This stark reality forms the cornerstone of Devi Seetharam's powerful art series, 'Brothers, Fathers and Uncles'. These paintings aim to confront and challenge the deep-seated patriarchal vestiges that continue to persist despite the passage of time and the evolution of society.
Although the series is anchored in a vibrant and evergreen landscape, Devi deliberately portrays a public space that is weathered, worn, and tired. The figures in her paintings, draped in traditional white mundu, assume a fearless entitlement over these spaces. She purposefully avoids indicating a specific time period, emphasizing that the themes she explores transcend temporal boundaries. The series explores the cultural psyche in public spaces, reflecting how the same dynamics trickle into other aspects of life.
Devi's paintings depict a world where men wield authority over public spaces, their purity symbolized by the white mundua which is also used to legitimize their self-imposed status and privilege. Meanwhile, women are reduced to symbolic figures of beauty and desire, easily undermined and objectified. The absence of women in social gatherings and public places is a poignant reminder of the societal limitations placed upon them. The artist's discomfort with her own relationship with her hometown, Thiruvananthapuram, where women face difficulties in freely occupying public spaces, serves as the catalyst for this series.
Devi meticulously transcribes her thoughts, capturing the essence of discomfort and the contrasting notions surrounding loitering. The men depicted in the paintings are shown in casual proximity, engaged in conversation or simply hanging out. Their raised and folded mundus, pinned umbrellas, and newspapers tucked in hands depict a sense of familiarity and ease.
'Brothers, Fathers and Uncles' is a thought-provoking exploration of the gendered power dynamics that persist in society. By shedding light on the absence of women in public spaces, she challenges the societal norms that restrict and confine women to specific roles and movements. Through her attention to detail and profound symbolism, Devi encourages viewers to question and dismantle these entrenched norms, fostering a dialogue on the importance of gender equality and societal transformation.