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Children of a lesser god

CD Jain's paintings explore the world of children



Exploring maternal ties

Children and their lives were the focus of an exhibition titled `Joys of togetherness' at the Lalithakala Akademi Art gallery in Thiruvananthapuram. Exploring the world of children and the child in him was C.D. Jain, an artist who has not confined his childhood to sepia tinted photographs. Instead, his brush captures children in various moods - at work and at play.

A new dimension was the focus on maternal love. Untitled canvases depict the deep bonds between a mother and her child. The compassionate expression on the mother's face is reflected in the expression of bliss on the child's face who snuggles into the mother's bosom. An oft-repeated theme has been portrayed without making it maudlin.

The artist says that it was his mother's illness and helplessness that evoked in him the urge to express on canvas the profound relationship between a mother and a child.

His upbringing in a coastal village has been mirrored in the paintings that portray children playing near a boat and on the beach. One catches glimpses of the sea here and there. At times the figures are silhouetted against the sea. Another painting shows children helping with the catch and their curiously expressionless faces makes one wonder whether it is work or the struggle to make ends meet that have wiped the smiles from their faces.

Concern for children

Although Jain has not put up any of his works from an earlier series on child abuse and child labour, his concern for deprived children was evident in the works that were exhibited.

Without trying to shock the viewer or sensationalise poverty, Jain depicts the lives of children living in slums and in rural India. He manages to convey the mood of the painting through his clever use of colour. Many of the paintings of children playing are done in bright shades of yellow and red. There is an exuberance to the figures playing on a swing and in a garden. On the other hand, his mother and child series have a blue look to it. It looks as if the canvas absorbed his depression and sadness. His paintings on child abuse are in black and white.

Jain says that his travels in Tamil Nadu helped him gain a better understanding of the traumatised lives led by children who are forced to work for their living. His anger, outrage and sorrow are captured in the paintings that portray children who seem to be passively enduring the indignities heaped on them.

Through a window

Several of his paintings are framed by a heavy border of white. One gets the impression that the artist is trying to look though a window to get a better picture of the world inhabited by children. Jain says that he must be one of the few artists, if not the only one, who has worked on paintings that revolve around children only. He is an alumnus of the College of Fine Arts in Thiruvanathapuram.

SARASWATHY NAGARAJAN

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