Considering the history of women in art we could see how the finer gender has walked a long way from the initial bondages to a male oriented visual art practice to a politicized bold creation of visual aesthetics. Though feminist theories are not the guiding principles of many of these women artists whom we see in this presentation, a conscious femininity is the guiding spirit for most of them. I want to make the distinction between femininity and the ‘conscious femininity’ here because femininity or the cultured female subjectivity is something that has been moulded according to the needs of a male oriented society. Meanwhile, conscious femininity is different from both this subjugated female-ness and a militant feministic stance, it highlights the woman’s awareness about her own natural self and the cultural constructs built around it. Hence, for a woman artist it becomes imperative to operate carefully between these two subjectivities. Those are the successful women and woman artists who could negotiate these two zones of subjectivities at times elegantly and at other times militantly.
Artscapes’ annual venture to find out the young and upcoming woman artists of this country is much laudable because it gives an opportunity for many of those young women who live across our vast country to show their works to eminent art personalities followed by the exhibition for a larger public. As a male art critic, I hold myself back from using the words like ‘charity’, ‘noble cause’ and ‘uplifting of woman artists’ etc not only because I would sound politically incorrect in saying so but also because I imagine, believe in and aspire for a society where women from all the walks of life live in equality, freedom, rights and justice. I deem such artistic efforts are vigorous steps towards establishing such a free society though, considering our present socio-political scenario it would take a bit more time than expected. However, our striving for a futuristic society cannot be put onto the backburner. When I look at the works presented in this annual competition and exhibition, I feel that with each passing year, the woman artists in our country are getting more and more intellectual and technical powers to achieve such a wonderful society.
I would like to look at the works presented here with a pair of eyes that is directed by a sense of equity than the idea of competition. From the work that has been awarded with the first prize to the merit awardees in the list and unto the rejected ones I find the potential of our future art scene where the works of woman artists are looked at, appreciated and promoted not just for their gender related powers but for the intrinsic values of their art itself. While going through the works of these young woman artists, I could see how they have come out of their closets and have created works that could deal not only with romantic fantasizing but also with socio-political realities and science fiction. But they are done on purpose, as I mentioned before, they are done with a sense of continuity. What has been said to be the male bastions so far have been rendered generic and inclusive by the woman artists of this country. But what makes their works distinct is the subtle voices (and a times shrill too) of resistance and defiance. When a young artist paints an alien running over the high rise buildings and almost erasing them, she suggestively mocks the hegemonic imaginations of the powerful male world that through science fictions mould the future minds of ‘their’ boys. When another young artist deals with the fashion industry bringing forth the mythological reference to the original sin, in a way she redeems the woman from being the instigator and throws the question up to the male world that has created such myths for its convenience.
As I mentioned in the beginning of this short essay, the variety of visual and creative engagement is what makes these young woman artists interesting. Furthermore, they do not operate from a vacuum. They are aligned to both the oriental and the occidental art histories. Besides, they are aware of the art history of our own immediate past which could be called as the national art history. From this allegiance comes the continuity of visual strategies, their re-interpretations and re-employments in their own works. This continuity is important because if one militantly says that the woman artists could operate from an absolutely sanitized zone without any traces of male oriented art history it would be fanatical. Continuities are important not just to prove the worth of the woman artists to ‘handle’ the male aesthetics but it is pertinent to historically and politically engage with the larger milieu of visual culture that has conditioned the very aspect of viewing the works of art created by women. I would be all the more happy the day when woman artists make references to exclusive feminine and feministic art histories as they could establish a referential zone for themselves in a strong way; but at the same time realistically .
I tend to believe that at some point there would be convergences and divergences, even competitions with the other gender because it is from this conflict there originates stronger ideas of evolution and progress. I am sure that conflict will not be drastic but creative and rejuvenating for one and all.