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A show that celebrates the genius of Lalitha Lajmi

A virtual exhibition comprising works of Lalitha Lajmi, 88, through different stages of her career, is currently up for viewing till September 18. It is presented by Goethe-Zentrum Hyderabad in collaboration with Gallery Art & Soul, Mumbai. The show’s Curatorial Associate is Lina Vincent.

The works on display provide a more than a glimpse of Lajmi’s experiences, often bittersweet, and the artistic refuge that she took to tide them over. Most of her figurative works depict a play of emotions between the characters. Someone is gazing into while the other is gazing away and the pull and push of sentiments is subtly displayed in this manner. Take, for example, Dialogue (2016), a water colour of arch paper creation, that shows a man talking to a woman even as a child clings to him and a woman patiently looks on.


“When it comes to my work, I generally have figures in mind – men, women, children, and clowns. I have been working on the concept of performance for long. It is about performers not only those on the stage or circus, but those in real life. I feel my work is more optimistic than now. Earlier there used to be a lot of struggle,” Lajmi shared with Sapna Mathur in 2005, for an article for Hindustan Times.

In Performer (2011), another water colour on arch paper creation, we see a woman balancing herself on a wheel with a bird on her shoulder. There is also a woman sitting on a bench, clutching a child, and a man standing on a cycle, albeit in a reasonably comfortable posture. Having battled loneliness herself, the predominant themes of her works seem to showcase familial bonds that often appear on shaky grounds on the one hand and show promise of the future on the other.


For example, Purush v Prakriti Kalakar (1977), linocut, shows a man and a woman on a balcony amid high rises and a busy road. The man is looking at the woman longingly even as she appears to be busy gazing into the mirror. Other notable print exhibits include The Masks (1973), Dream of a Mark (1975), Death Reading a Book of Poems (1977), Man and Woman (1981), The Unemployed Youth (1981), and The Birth (1984).


Lajmi is one of India’s senior-most women printmakers and trained hard to reach her stature. From 1973 to 1976, as revealed in an article in The Hindu by Ritika Kocchar, Lajmi attended evening classes for intaglio and etching printmaking at the Sir J J School of Art. She set up a graphic press in her kitchen to work on at night, sleeping only for a couple of hours.


Lajmi has also used media such as water colours and colour pencils.  These works, also displayed in the exhibition, include Portrait of Gangubai (1984), Sleeping Bisco (1979), and Colaba (1979). During the pandemic, she kept herself occupied by working on a large Japanese rice-paper scroll, creating a series called Memory Roll II, which tried to depict the psyche of the child. These drawing, done between March 2020 and September 2020, are also part of the exhibit and display birds, fish, faces, and figurines. The exhibition can be viewed at tinyurl.com/confluencegzh