Jasmine Nilani Joseph

As we attempt to flatten the curve and return to normalcy, it is intriguing yet crucial to question the notion and consequence of these physical and mental boundaries. The influence and result of its implications have considerably changed the prejudiced perceptions of society. What do these ‘fences’ mean and are they biased? Amidst this period of Covid-19 & quarantine, we venture into territories that have chartered these opinions, from past preconceived notions to the present ones that are changing. In this edition we dissect and observe these concepts through artist Jasmine Nilani Joseph’s work, ‘Fences’. ‘Fences’ in its presentation is symbolic to the imminent concept and context of the daunting pandemic and conveys its consequences with the aid of barriers. This series is interpreted through the present context of isolation and distancing where the concept of ‘fences’ play a huge role both literally and figuratively.

Born and raised in Jaffna, Jasmine Nilani Joseph is a visual artist who focuses on drawing and its expanded relation to lived histories, especially in Northern Sri Lanka. Her work has extensively involved Northern surrounding, its antiquities and history. Jasmine’s work has been exhibited in New Delhi, Dhaka, Goa, Colombo and Jaffna, and she is a visiting lecturer of Art and Design at the University of Jaffna. In conversation with ARTRA, Jasmine shares the larger perspective through which ‘Fences’ assigns itself to act as illogical boundaries but serves to protect and bring society together, attempting to answer a critical question.

Q | What is the significance of your work ‘Fences’?

A | I began exploring the visual form of ink drawings in order to express my personal and political concerns in art. My creations seek the social politics and its numerous dimensions behind the fences and documenting the traditional fences. The debris interact with the land of my ancestors in Jaffna where I compelled to leave in 1990 upon the insurgence of the civil war, which raises questions about the high security zones which stand as barriers. Whilst I seek answers, my concern expanded to the entire concept of fences. Fences in essence, are constructions, which symbolize boundaries. Although fences present a pleasant external view, it has the underpinnings of separatism and violence. We can see its presence in ethnic conflicts, violence among the communities, struggles etc. My drawings contain canes of coconut and Palmyra trees and fence made of barbed wire and architectural constructions of which these drawings are created as images moving in a vertical line.

Q | Your work, ‘Fences’ explores separation. How would you say this idea applies in this period of Covid-19 & quarantine?

A | Of course we can connect them with this quarantine period. When we look at the works which I displayed at Colomboscope titled as ‘Unveiled Barriers’, mean there are invisible barriers in the ocean which we can’t divide but the situations and issues which we had in the past make us imagine a barrier upon it. In the same way, social distancing reflects unveiled barriers.

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10th June, 2020 Visual Art | Paintings