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WORK by JANINE SHROFF

Janine is a queer illustrator and designer. She lived in Bombay for eighteen years before moving to London where she is currently based. Her work draws on a mixture of Persian and Mughal miniatures and contemporary culture. It is both figurative and occasionally surreal – utilising bright colours and humour with darker undertones. Androgynous bird characters appear in all her paintings, either observing or participating in an aloof manner.

 
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The Queen

From the worship of fertility to the mechanical side of reproduction, Janine explores a range of day-to-day themes including birth, pregnancy, relationships, sexual identity and gender. She queries society’s pro-natalist view and motherhood as a machine to produce future labourers. Androgynous bird characters and humans enact fantasy scenes, mostly set in mundane and domestic landscapes.

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The Queen detail

Her work is set within both historic and modern contexts, from the ‘Goddess’ series to the more dystopian scenarios in ‘the Queen’ and its twin image, ‘The Breeders’. Both are made in water-soluble crayon, acrylic, felt-pens, ink and ball-pen on heavyweight paper. ‘The Queen’ (2014) is the organic side of reproduction where motherhood appears as both an elevation and a trap. The Queen’s body changes to accommodate her all-encompassing motherhood, distending from about two centimetres or so to something as large as a finger. She has already lost her wings, and then her legs too, which are reduced to useless stumps against the bulk of her white body. Her body has changed into a large translucent, white, immobile mass – a pulsating organ for reproduction.

 
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The Breeders (2013)

‘The Breeders’ (2013) shows the world of pronatalists and anti-abortionists as a modern phenomenon. It is the mechanical mirror image and twin to the termite Queen in an underground dystopia. This artwork provokes us to think of breeding as a business venture. Janine celebrates the hidden culture of abortion as it should be a woman’s choice. Her visual language addresses precolonial reproductive rights in South Asian queer contexts. Through social amnesia around the long history of abortion, the varying images in her works depict the horrific restrictions placed on women in modern times.

 
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Lesbians Riding Ponies (2015)

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Lesbians Riding Ponies (2015) detail

Lesbians Riding Ponies (2015) detail

‘Lesbians Riding Ponies’ (2015) represents a fantasy gay-topia with clouds on the horizon and detailed figures of cats, plants, crystals. The little ponies represent the artist’s gay icons with Janine saying that ‘they deserved their own painting.’ The artworks feature miniature birds that are an integral part of the landscape but are placed as detached observers of hidden stories. This painting is an ode to the queer community along with their cats, crystals and plants.

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The Harvest (2018)

‘The Harvest’ (2018) documents herbs in an increasingly restrictive age of reproductive autonomy. Featured here is a specially curated botanical compendium of cotton, angelica, wild carrot, green papaya among other plants. Janine says, ‘I used gold paint to give it the richness of an illuminated book…the two ‘pears of anguish’ at the top, are medieval devices used to torture those who had miscarriages or abortions or helped women have abortions.’

 
 

Join Janine reflecting on the reproductive ideal and the emergence of multi-family imagery in social media. She also discusses her unfinished artwork, ‘Booby Monster’, where she moves from minutiae to larger figures, presenting the latter as if they had been objectified through the male gaze.