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Framing elusive femininity

Enchanting the Icon, at Sakshi Gallery, treads a difficult yet lively path in an attempt to create innovative ways to look at, comprehend, admire, and appreciate facets of Indian womanhood.

HUMAN FORM — especially the feminine one — has delighted, tickled, and enchanted artists, poets, and performers since time immemorial. For a creative artist, the female form opens up innumerable opportunities for depiction and interpretation, even as it throws up equally daunting challenges.

The Indian woman, in particular, with her multi-faceted personality, character, and identity, is a picture of many faces. Even to grasp a fraction of her moods, feelings, and meandering and to showcase them in an art show is in itself a tall order, and any effort to do so is to be lauded.

Enchanting the Icon, at Sakshi Gallery, treads on this difficult yet lively path in an attempt to create innovative ways to look at, comprehend, admire, and appreciate facets of Indian womanhood — as seen through the eyes of 14 artists and sculptors. That the exhibition embodies several luminaries of contemporary Indian art is a testimonial to the curatorial accomplishment of Marta Jakimowicz.

Gogi Saroj Pal, with two of her enduring themes, Kamadhenu and Nayika, is somewhat familiar to Bangaloreans, thanks to her recent show at Crimson. A. Ramachandran's simple but effective work, titled Visions of Ramdev, incorporates a straightforward portrait of seated woman in rural setting hedged by intriguingly-featured birds. Manjit Bawa's untitled drawing on paper features a dancing female form, balancing an elephant in its stretched-out multiple arms. K.G. Subramanian is represented by two paintings — Woman on a Settee with its unusual angle and perspective plan and a more dynamic Still Life with Fish where the partially hidden face of a woman is framed along with a fishpond and a villainous cat with a mouthful of fish. Rekha Rodwittiya's untitled work has a stoically profiled lady standing in the middle of a black frame, with ribbon-like strands resembling severed umbilical chords on her head and hand, their motion possibly symbolising freedom and independence.

More stark and powerful images come from Laxma Goud and Nicola Durvasula, whose works are charged with erotic images — sometimes overt, sometimes hinted. Nalini Malani's Stories Retold is violently washed with colour and content, while K.T. Shiva Prasad's daringly depicted female sexuality comes from pornographic images on which, playfully, the artist superimposes dwarfed yet colourful folk puppetry, possibly to show his anger, frustration, and sarcasm.

The two starkly bold and coloured sculptures of female nudes by Navjot and Ravinder Reddy evoke different feelings — one for its stoic defiance and inherent power and the other for its sensuality and somewhat exaggerated and overt voluptuousness.

While the masters, even in their seemingly minor and lesser known works, could beguile the viewer, the surprise element comes from lesser-known artists who seem to be genuinely involved in creating their own visual statements. Harsha, for instance, in a somewhat text-bookish illustrative, sets his four panels depicting a mother advising her uniformed, school-going child. Although the posture of the mother and child remains same in all the panels, the mood and ambiance vary dramatically in each frame, enticing the viewer to prod and think.

A mini-installation, Perfect Mirrors I and II by Surekha, is equally engrossing with its set of postcard-sized studio photographs of young girls showing off their heavily-braided hair. The other half of the installation displays some unrealistic reflections through the shining aluminium sheath, punctured by small, uneven rectangles, barely concealing disturbing headlines about a woman hacked to death. In a similar vein, Chila Kumari sets her two works, Russian Roulette and 28 Positions in 34 Years as visual brain-teasers.

While the exhibition is successful in bringing out an interesting assemblage of eminent artists, the viewer's appetite may still not be fully satisfied on a few counts. For one, big names and reputations alone do not make an event happen, and the exhibition could fall short of expectations in terms of creative fusion, depth, and bonding. Considering the reputation and repertoire of the artists involved on the one hand, and so many varied possibilities afforded by the theme on the other, the viewer cannot also be faulted for expecting to see some major works lined up along the walls. Further, even while empathising for the obvious limitation of space and expanse, one felt that the engrossing sculpture pieces seemed to gasp for more lung space around them.

In spite of all these, there is no doubt that the exhibition is an honest attempt to ensconce a complex theme.

The exhibition continues till March 11.


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