Reshma Thomas – Portraying Shades of Humanity on Bark

Thiruvananthapuram: If you have the creativity in you, use it to communicate to people, nothing should stop you – the message that Reshma Thomas upholds in her life. A passionate artist from Thiruvananthapuram, Reshma feels that her paintings can communicate better than words, thereby bringing about a positive change in society.

The Business Development Head of Ekaart Digital Systems, a Technopark-based company, Reshma says that she sees art in everything and uses it as a medium to bring about a change in the ‘stereotyped’ social outlook of people. “As an artist, I feel that it is my responsibility to communicate to people and my artworks usually reflect the emotions of the silenced and marginalised sections of society,” she revealed.

Reshma had recently conducted a four-day exhibition of bark paintings – a first-of-its-kind in Kerala, at the Golf Club in Kowdiar. The exhibition titled ‘Secret Metamorphosis – a collection of bark paintings’ showcased the story of transformation in humans, told through a series of 40 bark paintings.“Bark is a symbol of resilience, strength and adaptability. It teaches you how to stay strong in the face of setbacks in life. An individual becomes strong with life experiences, travel or from any relationship. Barks stand as a testimony to all of this,” says Reshma.

“There is a secret transformation happening in every individual, knowingly or unknowingly. People endorse what is right and discard what is wrong. I wanted to create this consciousness among people, using bark paintings,” notes Reshma.

“Golf Club itself is a reservoir of around 3,000 ancient trees belonging to different species. There could not be a better venue for these paintings”, said G Venugopal, singer, who inaugurated the exhibition along with writers Dr. Meena T Pillai and Unni R, and singer B Arundhathi.

A unique form of painting which is not much heard of, bark paintings trace their history back to the Australian aboriginals. The aboriginals process barks (mainly from Pine trees) and paint the interior part. Those paintings mainly depict their village life. Reshma treated the barks of Mahogany and Artocarpus hirsutus (Anjili) for about six-months with various chemical sprays after which the barks were moulded into the desired shape and imprinted on to an organic paper.

“My bark paintings depict abstract human faces and emotions,” she says.

“Being a self-made artist, Reshma has raised the art to a higher level. She has her own unique style. Nowadays, art is produced purely for commercial purposes, but Reshma is someone who has always treaded a different path and I am proud of that,” says noted artist B D Dathan.

“Reshma discovers the secret of the trees, the songs of their bark and translates them to visual poetry. Bark paintings stand testimony to the music of this world, its eternal charm, its fleeting colours and the flow of humanity,” said Dr Meena T Pillai.

“I was always interested in textures and texture paintings. The textures in barks always attracted me and that is how I started to explore and learn more about bark paintings. Since I did not have a ‘guru’ or teacher to refer to, I had to resort to several trial and error methods before applying the finishing strokes to a painting,” said Reshma.

Also a humanitarian, Reshma had earlier exhibited around 200 paintings named ‘Identity’, for showcasing various hues of transgender life.

“This exhibition was one of the inspirations for the state to execute the transgender policy in 2015,” said Dr M K Muneer, former Social Welfare Minister, who had inaugurated the event at Kozhikode. “It helped me know more about the life of transgenders and the challenges they face,” he added.

As part of World Mental Day, Reshma had also displayed a series of paintings titled ‘Mind Network’. Her exhibition was also a message to society that mental instability is not something that should be kept under wraps, but something that should be talked about openly. She pointed out how it is still a stigma for a girl to come up and say that she is undergoing depression.

Reshma was also instrumental in presenting the impressions etched in children’s minds about their parents and society as a whole.

“I could study some interesting observations from children when I spoke to around 200 students from different schools. One child remembered his mother as a Facebook addict and father as a regular WhatsApp user. Another child remembered a keyhole when talking about his parents as he looked through the keyhole when they were having a fight in a closed room. These were the various imprints children had about their parents. I tried to produce the same on my canvas using cotton and cloth,” Reshma recounts.

“More than material benefits, art gives satisfaction to my soul, and I love the humane aspect attached to it. Meeting new people and travelling are my sources of creative inspiration,” Reshma says.

Many of her paintings have been bought by art lovers at the exhibitions. Around a dozen of the paintings fetched prices ranging from Rs. 8,000 to Rs. 30,000.

Reshma has done her Master’s in Public Administration from Madras Christian College and has submitted a thesis on ‘The challenges faced by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community in India’.