The gallery at Ente Bhoomi, Valanjambalam, Kochi, is adorned with paintings, big and small, by Jilumol Mariet Thomas. A native of Thodupuzha, this is her maiden exhibition. What makes her works unique is the method of painting them. She has painted them all with her feet.
Jilu, who was born without hands, says that painting has been her interest since childhood. “I would participate in school competitions and win prizes. Those victories inspired me to take this passion forward,” says Jilu, a graduate in Animation and Graphic Designing. She currently works as a graphic designer in a private firm in Kochi.
Although drawing has always been her passion, she started learning it one and a half years ago at the art school of Ente Bhoomi. She would spend her weekends, mostly Sundays, at the school sharpening her skills. Benny, her mentor who is with her at the venue finds Jilu a quick learner. “Unlike her peers, she grasps the lessons pretty fast and she is highly devoted to her artwork. All these paintings have been done within this short span. I have only helped her with a few finishing touches,” he explains.
The show features 21 paintings—landscapes, still life and portraits—done in different mediums such as acrylic, watercolour and oil. The first painting in the show portrays resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is followed by rural scenery in watercolour. “Initially, I didn’t like this painting about rural life. I put that aside, thinking I would never take it. But, I fell in love with it when I framed it,” she chuckles.
Observe her paintings, one can see nature recurring in them in the form of waterfalls and sunsets. “I want to paint all sorts of objects, but nature’s beauty repeats in my works. I think I have a keen eye for that,” she smiles. Looks like, she has an affinity towards the sea and fisherfolk too. Fishermen, Chinese fishing nets and the wharves have found a place on her canvases. Along with them, there are portraits of Gandhi, Kathakali artist and Buddha. Rest of the works are still life. “This is a creative one. It is based on the concept of abortion,” says Jilu about a painting which has a foetus in it. She has used multiple mediums to depict her works. Jilu says that working with acrylic is most the comfortable medium for her. “Because it dries easily. Oil takes time,” says the artist.
Ask her about learning to paint with her feet and do routine stuff, she says it has been a slow and steady development. She gives the credit to her grandmother and nuns at Mercy Home where she was brought up. “I lost my mother when I was four and a half years old. Once, my paternal grandmother put a book on the floor and put her foot on that, something which our society sees irreverent. But that ignited the spark in me. She was showing me I could put my legs in good use. Slowly, I started doing my daily activities with my feet. It improved once I reached the Mercy Home where sisters encouraged me to do more with my feet. For instance, initially, I would brush my teeth sitting on the floor. Then, I started doing it sitting on a chair. Now, I can do it standing on one leg, next to the washbasin,” explains the determined Jilu who attempted to get herself a driving license one and a half years ago.
“I have not got it yet. I had approached the Thodupuzha RTO with a court order. As per their direction, I did alternation to my car. But when I went for vehicle registration, vehicle inspector was unwilling to give me the registration. That remains a dream. Right now, I am waiting for another court order. I will work towards achieving it,” adds Jilu.
It is the nuns who found out her drawing skills. “Some of the sisters used to draw. They motivated me to draw with feet.” It is not an easy process, she says. She has her own pace in doing paintings. “Time devoted to each painting is different. It depends on the size of the work. I never do anything putting my health under risk. I don’t sit at a stretch to complete a work. I take breaks to calm myself. Otherwise, I get a back pain,” says the artist, a hardcore fan of Raja Ravi Varma and member of Indian Mouth and Foot Painting Artists Association (IMFPA). The association promotes artists and helps them sell their works.
Currently, Jilu lives at a hostel in Kochi. Her room is her studio. Back home, her family includes her stepmother and two siblings. Jilu’s aspirations do not end here. Besides getting a driving license, she dreams of holding an exclusive exhibition of unique thoughts.
The current show is on till January 2 from 9 am to 8.30 pm.