She is focusing on footprints now. The more Shan Re saw the plight of migrants on television, the more her heart melted. The heart-rending scenes of migrant labourers walking home overwhelmed the Bengaluru-based contemporary artist and art therapist. How do I help these people, she wondered. Noticing their footsteps on their long, arduous trek home, Shan told herself that as an artist, she will put her thoughts on canvas as a record of the pandemic. And so she sketched and painted myriad footprints.
“I have worked non-stop and done a dozen paintings,” says Shan. She took two weeks of eight-hour days to complete A silent Soliloquy. The six-by-four foot painting features several footprints rushing towards home. “My work is spontaneous and I do not know its course until
I am near completion. I do not take any breaks either. I sketch directly on canvas and then paint. This set of paintings I knew would be symbolic rather than realistic.”
Shan also writes poems to accompany her paintings. “The migrants were left with no option but to trek miles to find their homes. Tragedy touched every family. If one woke to see their mother die, the other saw his child’s parched mouth yearning for water. They are the ones who build our spaces, and they had no space to stay.”
Shan says she chose footprints as a symbol to show the migrant workers’ determination to reach their destination. “With no food and sleep, their feet moved forward in an adventure laced with spirit and melancholy.”
Shan believes colour is not just a visual sensation. “It paints life in changing hues. The multiple layers I bring in are life’s metaphors. Textures and layers represent the depth and intensity of their souls. I have also used the tree of hope in this set of paintings.”
Earlier in the lockdown, Shan, who straddles several mediums including drawing, paintings, sculpture, installations and poetry, worked on a series called Nocturnal Blooms. The series focused on capturing blooms in times of distress and hardship. Shan believes a deep engagement with art helps in self-discovery. “That is how I am able to connect with the pandemic symbolically.” Shan’s work can be seen on her social media handles. “I will bring all this into my next solo when things normalize.”