‘She Sighs: listening to the inner core’, an exhibition of contemporary art that’s on display at La Gallery 360, contemplates the different facets of the feminine

What does femininity mean in this day and age? Surely, the idea has gone beyond gender stereotyping and is now an acceptable part of social construct – as much a part of the modern man as it has always been contrived to be a part of women. ‘She Sighs: listening to the inner core’, a group exhibition of paintings, reliefs, sculptures and video installations by six well-known artists, which is on display at La Gallery 360, takes up the question and explores the various facets of the feminine.

Artist Sajitha Shankar juxtaposes “the positive side of nature with the negative aspects of capitalism” in her stark, massive charcoal on canvas, ‘Admixtured Cocktail’, which searches for deficits with respect to sex, money, power, relationships and love. “It’s a refractive look on the present socio-political scenario in Kerala. As an artist, this festering corruption has been very disturbing and I had wanted to put it on canvas,” says the artist. She has further explored the idea on two canvases from her popular ‘Alterbodies’ series, painted in bold red and orange hues. “The number of single women is on an increase. What are the root causes of deficit in the relationship, in love...? Does corruption begin in families?” ponders the artist. In a marked departure from her usual style, in all three art works, Sajitha has stencilled in words. “It is for the first time that I am literally putting words on canvas. I’m finding it to be a very comfortable exercise,” says the city-based artist, with a laugh.

Paravoor-based contemporary artist Rathidevi Panicker has displayed one of the arresting acrylics from her Password series (that comprises four works). In this painting, titled ‘Mask/Unmask’, her leitmotif, the veiled face, provides for an intriguing contrast with sepia-toned collages of bare-chested women of yore, pictured proud, without any trace of coyness. “The bejewelled mask-like veil is not a religious symbol as is often misinterpreted. Rather, it is a contradiction of the very same progressive social reforms that ushered in modernity, whose agenda also strangely deemed necessary the increasing concealment of the body, especially the female body,” she explains. “Juxtaposed together the veiled face and the collage is a source of hope, a reminder another way of being that existed even as recently as the life time of my own maternal grandmother,” she adds.

Radha Gomathy’s three intriguing reliefs all have a burning heart as a leitmotif (symbolising that blood is fire is energy). The life-size ‘Diety’ and the smaller brilliantly-hued ‘Burning Heart (Pheonix)’, which features a pheonix rising out of the burning heart, both appear deeply steeped in myth, classic design features and all. “It’s deliberately like that. The idea stems from suffering but they reflect feminine traits of resilience and survival.” ‘Sea of Tears (Mastsyavatar)’, meanwhile, is a lighter-veined approach to the Matsyavatar. “It’s a sincere lament of a true truth-seeker. The pralaya that is tears gather in a sea and the tiny horned fish marks the emergence of something that is resolute and life saving,” explains the Kochi-based artist.

The lone male perspective in the exhibition is that of Sunil Laal T.R., who seems to have embraced his femininity. His paintings are the loudest of the lot – in terms of colour, expression and interpretation. Video installations by Delhi-based artist Merlyn and paintings by Kochi-based Nijeena Neelambaram are also on display. The exhibition, curated by Latha Kurien Rajeev, is open at La Gallery 360, ‘Homestead’, Museum Bains Compound, from 10.30 a.m. to 6.30 p.m. The exhibition concludes on August 30.