Cherry Kutti’s work is provocatively original.
Cherry Kutti’s “Red” and “Black” were her first simple-chroma art series, marking the beginning of finding her voice through art. These series were the first works she exhibited. To make them, she used the materials she happened to have on hand. At that point, she wasn’t making serious work but made drawings here-and-there to unwind.
The ‘Black’ series came to be while she was dealing with some Visa issues in Sri Lanka in 2016.
“I picked up some black markers, Tipp-Ex and a kids’ drawing book to pass the time. I ended up making the ‘Black’ series, so it’s special to me for that reason. The Tipp-Ex is all yellowed now, it looks really cool. For the ‘Red’ series, I wanted to make it as stifling as possible. Red and black together has always felt really ominous to me,” Cherry told Kajal in an e-mail.
The women in the series are lain against or into luxurious backdrops, featuring glacial mountains, balconies, starscapes, and brick-walled suites. They have tired eyes and large, relaxed breasts. Simply existing in our external surroundings implies connection, but what is inside of ourselves often dictates whether we are with, in, or against those surroundings. And sometimes, what we see in the mirror–under bullshit rules, tools, and media–has undue influence on our insides, and thus the way we meet the world and others. It’s an unjust, unrealistic, unconscious, and unfair way to live.
The series captures an examination of relation to self, and how perceptions around ugliness and beauty shape our realities. Feeling isolated and vacant in public spaces are themes Cherry keeps returning to.
“Feeling the pressure to be a beautiful woman when you don’t feel like a person at all is something that weighs on me heavily,” she said. “Being in public spaces is uncomfortable because I have no idea what I look like and I’m hyper-conscious of what my face and body is doing at all times.”
In the “Red” series, Cherry Kutti approached this sentiment by obscuring the character’s face and showing her unveiling her mask while she’s alone and away from anyone’s gaze. The viewer does not know what she looks like, either. The composition is a discourse on being seen versus looked at. For Cherry, sharing her work makes her feel vulnerable and exposed, and as a form of self-protection, maintaining some mystery is integral in her work.
In her styling process, more is revealed.
“I like keeping bodies and faces loose and gestural. Trying to fit in more than one plane of existence into a drawing is a little on the nose, but too fun to quit. My grandmother was an artist as well, so I’ll sneak in some of her work into mine,” she said. In the piece below, Cherry Kutti’s grandmother’s work appears above the curtains.
In her other work, Cherry tries to keep a similar thread of shifting perceptions. Currently, she is working on a project that involves shining multi-colored LED lights through thin, oil-painted paper. The lights react with the colors in the painting so that some elements are hidden and others are exposed.
In a single painted environment, Cherry Kutti tells a changing story and mood every time the viewer returns to it.
Check out more of Cherry Kutti’s work on her website.