The Other Gaze

by Shilpa Raina
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For those who always thought that indigenous art mostly borrows narratives from myths, an ongoing show, ‘Prakriti: The Creative Feminine’, unfolds a world of contemporary stories for viewers, where they will witness how the vernacular artists have adapted a new idiom to give their works a modern twist. This is why current socio-political themes like dowry, Nirbhaya rape case and devastation due to Tsunami are featured in this exhibition at Visual Art Gallery, which brings over 150 works in different indigenous art forms under one roof.
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The exhibition presented by Tulika Kedia, founder and director of Must Art Gallery, and curated by Dr Alka Pande is tribute to Mother Nature, and also features works by female folk artists. As Alka, in her curatorial notes writes, “Unlike the contemporary female artists who would prefer to define feminism with provocative woman figures, the indigenous woman artists take the liberty to carve a space with her artwork to talk about the duality — manifestating the woman — benevolent nature and invincibility.”
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This point of Alka comes out well in the Madhubani Art painting, “The Three Goddesses”, where artist Pushpa Kumari depicts three women at the centre and the starkness of the gaze and huddled positioning draws the viewer towards the artistic details. As Tulika points out, “Within a domed archway, a nude figure of what seems like a female ascetic is dancing under the midnight stars and a crescent moon, her body one with the environment, expressed through the cascading blue strokes.”
“The three depictions,” she says, possibly allude to the multiple roles played by a woman,” she adds.
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The show is divided into four sections– the Divine Feminine, in which there are captivating paintings related to Gods and Goddesses; One World, Many Incarnations where the folk art has space to be interpreted differently by the viewers; Contemporary Expressions in the Vernacular where artists have interpreted more recent societal happenings such as the tsunami or the Gond artist’s painting of the Smoking Taj inspired by the Mumbai attacks in haunting yet mesmerising colours and the last one is called The Other Gaze in which artists explore an interesting offbeat theme.
“Many of these works have been depicted in the traditional paintings of the past several decades, while newer assimilations in contemporary rendition are also widespread,” says Tulika.
According to Madhubani artist Baua Devi “the exhibitions and articles on art gives us an opportunity to be better known and get recognised in other countries like Japan, France, Spain.”
“Even the middle class people appreciate the work I do, In India the art circle is restricted but if these kind of events are on regular basis things would change for the better in the future for artists like us,” she adds.
The show features works in forms like Madhubani, Warli, Kalighat, Phad, Jogi and also mystical designs of Tanjore and age old mythical Patachitra paintings from rural Bengal. The show concludes on March 12.

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