Like an ocean, artist Prathapan G.’s works look calm on the surface and turbulent deep inside. The melancholic drawings in ink where sea creatures suffocate and fight for survival are reminders to viewers. They say: it’s high time we stopped littering plastic. Prathapan, who has been advocating the cause for the past seven years, says changing our attitude can make a better, plastic-free world for sea creatures. “I started drawing sea life in 2013 after seeing a fish trapped in a plastic cover. Not only fishes, but I have seen other organisms also in such conditions. It was heart-wrenching to see a tortoise trapped in a full-sleeve polyster shirt,” says Prathapan, who had a tough time pursuing the theme.
If art soothes minds in most cases, for Prathapan, doing this series has been traumatic. “How can I stay happy when I bring sorrows on canvases?” he asks. It was at this dejected point motivation came to him in the form of an invitation to the 2017 Kaarisilta biennale in Finland. Crossing seas, his works received rave reviews at the biennale. “That encouraged me to study more about life of sea organisms. That is also when I realised that the situation is darker and deeper at the bottom of seas. There are even plastic islands deep inside oceans.” Prathapan, who had been drawing about plastic menace on the peripheral level so far, started digging into the depths of seas to confront harsh and brutal realities. “The amount of plastic waste at the bottom of seas is beyond your imagination. For instance, to catch squids, fishermen lay traps at the deep layer. Once young squids are fully grown, they fish them out, but leave the plastic trap there, which eventually accumulate at the seabed. This is a global phenomen
on,” explains Prathapan, cautioning that even humans are not spared of it. “Now, sea water contains disintegrated plastic. Salt, a by product of sea water, too has plastic in it.” He has done more than 100 works in the theme. Nine of his works were featured in this year’s Kaarisilta biennale, held from June 26 to August 4. If one drawing shows a globe covered in a plastic carry bag, another one has two fishes trapped in condoms. “It is a severe condition. More discussions are to be done on this menace. Policies should be amended keeping this in mind,” he concludes.