- Padma Jayaraj
Photos: Courtesy the artist

May 4, 2013

Caught within a surreal world where animalised humans peep at you, you feel like Alice in Wonderland. This is not a world of mutants but your fellow- travellers down the evolutionary path. And the paintings reflect a deeper reality for you.

‘Chimera’ by Minal (Rajurkar) Shinde (9th to 15th April 2013, at Jahangir Art Gallery, Mumbai) is a visual parallel to the great allegories in world literature. The ironical title points to the real in combinations of the unreal. And the psychological insight of the artist unravels the truth hidden in the layers of the surreal down human growth and development. Intellectual in content, philosophical in delineation, the show is curated with a fine aesthetic sensibility.

The first four paintings in a series proclaim the theme. Humankind is broadly divided into the male and the female. The first painting is a manly physic, drawn in bold lines and suffused in muted colour, with the head of a dog. Its meek posture suggests its basic docile nature, the embodiment of ‘Yes, Master.’ The two paintings of cats in female attire show the innate character of the woman in an unfriendly world. Then we see the picture of a tiger’s head on a man’s body, bold in attitude. Caught between the meek and the bold, the persona of the woman indicate the acquired trait of safe landing, with an uncanny ability to remain unharmed no matter from what steep height it falls. That is what the folk wisdom says about the nature of the cat. The artist delves into the psychological depths of both the male and the female ethos with a rare insight.

In a series of paintings smaller in scale, the panoramic world of childhood is painted.  A young rabbit, a rat, a squirrel, an eagle, a puppy, and a kitten stare at you with curiosity. They have an air of innocence about them.  They delineate the nature of childhood in its phases. Amused, you stand and share their playful mood as if you were a child once more. The group next is complex and intriguing, which draws a deconstructive parallel to the well known tales from famous parables. The lion seated in all glory is a larger than life-size painting of a well dressed modern man. He is a father figure who holds the rat seated on his lap in protective gesture. In the old tale, it was the rat that saved the lion caught in a web. Here, the truth is implied in a reversal of postures critiquing the patriarchal notions of social hierarchy.

The game of deception practised by the fox on the crane and the crane’s revenge later is slightly altered. Seated on either side of a table, the fox and the crane sit facing each other unable to taste the food before them in containers designed just to tease. Rooted in sadism, the old legend retells the cynical game people practice on each other just for fun. From the famous fables, the artist moves on to create her own symbols. The painting of an unreal combination of companions - an eagle, fox and a parrot, is a master stroke of metaphorical representation of the reality of life situations. The last painting in the series is poignant and poetic. The deer, a humanised being, is drawn in a hapless posture with a sense of finality. After life’s epileptic fits, the gentle spirit of the deer is a picture of acceptance, at peace with itself.

The artist surveys the mindscape of human nature, illuminating the hidden truths. The angle of perception is from the viewpoint of evolution. And even the missing link is there. The monkey is absent in the woods of childhood. Creative in substance, in sober colours within powerful lines, with sizes and shapes that give dimensions to the display, Chimera is an ironic comment on the humans who claim to be civilised.
Minal (Rajurkar) Shinde is a young artist who hails from Nagpur. After her Masters in Fine Arts, she had a teaching stint in SNDT. Her brochure cites an impressive list of shows, workshops, awards and participations in camps.  Now she is engaged as creative artist in her individual capacity. Her psychological insight and rare talent to give classical dimension in  simple yet powerful forms make her a thinking artist. 

Padma Jayaraj is a freelance writer on the arts and travel. She is a regular contributor to