Art review .

Art review                                                            .

Through the veil

Swetha’s work from the  exhibition ‘Purdah’Purdah” at the Gallery Sumukha (April 16 to 30) was the first solo exhibition of Swetha B V. True to the title, it dealt with the female condition of socially imposed domestic confinement and its depersonalisation, while adopting the actual cloak, besides other fabrics, as her art material and probing the consequences it imparts on the woman.

Even though such feminine use of cloth in challenging patriarchy has a long history both internationally and here, and despite some visual metaphors, like the wounds in the shape of roughly stitched tears, basing on rather familiar precedents, the young artist should be appreciated for her genuineness, her considered concept and often careful, sometimes quite imaginatively evocative execution.

What makes it so is, on the one hand, Swetha’s convincing and well-researched application of traditional patchwork and embroidery practices which, along with the transformation of stitched tread trails into the lines of drawing, serves a contemporary way with structuring, colouring and texturing the picture.

On the other hand, it is her focus not only on statements about the gender’s predicament but on bringing out the sheer sensation experienced by women behind the veil.

The artist avoids letting a specific individual dare the anonymity of the burkha, but strives to explore and bring to the tactile surface what women generally feel.

In a few works she spreads flat purdah fabrics hanging on curtain rods, thus emphasising the domestic segregation. Just the pattern of many silk-screened burkha wearing women suggests the presence of real persons invisible to the outside.

The finery and sometimes lushness of the geometric and floral embellishment here and in the jali motifs contain the desire to transfer one’s sensuous beauty to what covers it. The empty but mirror-filled slits in the facial veils stimulate the viewer to empathise with, almost enter the condition, even if the device is not handled powerfully enough.

Shweta does not condemn only the Islamic bondage but sees it together with its Hindu manifestation, when enclosed in an arabesque she depicts a multi-armed nude carrying objects of her daily subservience to men.

Her Grihalakshmi equivalent becomes a headless housecoat without limbs installed on a sacred lotus but devoted to cooking, cleaning and waiting on the family. The revenge of this female deprived of individual fulfilment comes in the smaller multimedia paintings where men are pictured caricature-like as aggressive, libidinous beasts for whom women are possessions, the sole link between the sexes being their physical organs, whereas the victim is symbolised by a bleeding gas stove. The spectator may admire these pieces which sacrifice declarations for the sake of poetic complexity, for instance in the green composition with interacting layers of ornate organic designs or in the architectural collage of fabrics with a Dassera doll which makes external and interior surfaces and recesses permeate.

Easy involvement

 Raghu A, Wodeyar’s “Plastic Works” at Samuha (April 28 to 30) was a series of installations and a video which, without perhaps affording a cathartic experience or aesthetic profundities, proved however to be an effortless cornucopia of quick, spectacular images based on the ethos, issues and look of our youthful urban reality as well as on an honest - empathic and critical - reflecting about it.

Their loose, tentatively handled, rather inventive attractiveness itself was a trait adequate to the nature of this reality, especially that the artist addressed the often sincere but usually short-lived and superficial dedication to the political correctness of environmental friendliness whose facile manifestations can be found as much in advertising as in human relationships. In fact, his attention focussed on the inherent rift between the actual and that correctness.

While the vast inscription on the wall appealed against plastic but was entirely made of it, and while the video had him, with consideration and apprehension, say no to virtually all necessary domestic objects, the viewer realised the shallowness of the slogan against the inescapable usefulness of omnipresent synthetics.

Against the facile promises of the mobile industry and of sms-era love, the humble plastic bag with a live plant sapling appeared to be more sincere and suggested a possibility of sensible recycling.

Random gamut

The recent exhibition from Art is Zen Gallery (The Heritage Art Quarter, April 23 to 24) brought together 25 artists, predominantly painters, from different parts of the country, several younger local and Bengali ones at that. Even though clearly anachronistic and facile idioms were infrequent, the general level seemed to be around the cultured middle ground.

The most valuable contributions belonged to the quiet, maybe not the most sophisticated, sincere nevertheless, examples of probing relatively contemporary aesthetic methods.

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