It looks like a wound has been framed and mounted on the wall. The vividness and ferocity of its reds and oranges indicate a raw and violent anger of the type that rarely finds acknowledgement in real life, no matter that it simmers beneath the ‘normalcy’ we value so much. What it is, in fact, is a woodcut print on paper titled And This Burning Land Belongs to You created by Soghra Khurasani. It is one among a series of prints that comprise her ongoing exhibition “Cratered Fiction”, at Tarq in Mumbai. It is, says Khurasani, her way of expressing the anger and frustration that she feels as a witness to the violence and misogyny most women experience in South Asia.
“Cratered Fiction” is Khurasani’s second solo show at Tarq. For her debut solo, “One Day It Will Come Out”, the Vadodara-based artist had depicted erupting volcanoes, in a more overt expression of her anger. She says, “I used the volcanoes to express the voices of women and their anger against the present misogynistic situation in our country and around the world. They represent how we suppress our anger within ourselves and how it can burst out in reaction to what’s happening around us.” The craters, she says, came naturally as a means to express what happens after these “eruptions” — the silent, peaceful protests that come after the first burst of anger and eventually bring about changes.
Yet, the feminist anger is palpable in each of the works. The bright shades of red that the 32-year-old artist has used in her works could stand in for a number of things — depending on the context, red is the colour of anger or celebration, fertility or destruction. In Khurasani’s prints, red represents anger, of course, but there’s more to it here, as indicated by her depiction of craters, and lava collected in pools or flowing in streams. Lava and volcanic ash, while destructive in the immediate sense, are essential in the long term as they bring a rich load of minerals from the earth’s core to its crust. The slowly cooling lava, over the course of many millennia, is weathered into soil that is typically very fertile. Khurasani’s works, thus, equate this volcanic, cratered landscape with femininity. It is not a passive femininity; the surface may seem flat, placid and governable, but it is capable of mighty eruptions of destructive lava.
This feminine landscape cannot escape the effects of a masculine society. In the print titled Beyond My Skin and Your Soil, a field is cut into the fertile landscape and made ready for agricultural production, much like how women are raised and groomed for reproduction. The title, Even the Sun Hides When it Flows, seems like a comment on the illogical taboo associated with the menstrual cycle, while in Skin Beneath, scratches mar an otherwise-lovely landscape, revealing the reality of casual violence in the lives of women.
Khurasani addresses violence more directly in a set of 12 plates — the latest works in the exhibition — which show landscapes that have been grooved and furrowed and drilled. But there’s no anger in them, just a twilight stillness that, Khurasani says, lies between violence and healing. “These works depict the journey of a woman and her body, the wounds that she allows to be inflicted on her body and how they heal — the incisions made when she is preparing to deliver a child, the scars left by a cesarean surgery, or even the scars left by breast cancer surgery.” In her own way, Khurasani is celebrating the resilience of the feminine.
“Cratered Fictions” is on view at Tarq, Colaba, Mumbai, till January 15