Bazaar India talks to five eminent female artists about their idea of the feminine form
Artists Jayasri Burman, Seema Kohli, Rekha Rodwittiya, Anjolie Ela Menon and Gogi Saroj Pal celebrate the feminine form; fitness expert Yasmin Karachiwala discusses her new book.
By Ria Singh
I am a woman—do not whisper it!
The female figure as a central image is consciously placed as an endorsement of female victory—almost as a totemic trophy of the self for the self—to reinforce the embodiment of the female spirit as a vital axis to life itself. In my representation of the woman, I iconise the female figure by diagram-matising her body—thereby removing the palpable corporeality so that it does not become a commodity for lustful consumption.
My art is a commentary about life through my existence in this world. It allows me to search and find myself and my space of belonging. I believe that it is through the lives of the ordinary that we best witness the ideals of beauty. I have found my strength through the many stories about the courage of ordinary women—both rural and urban—that have championed women’s rights in the subcontinent. The spirit of the woman is indomitable as she continues to commit her energies to nurture life through her capacity to define self-dignity and offer lessons of forgiveness.”
Prasav or Utpatti
This painting captures the essence of Jayasri Burman’s journey as an empowered woman while portraying human capacities of stimulating thoughts and fertile expressions. The female form is endowed with miracles and mystical powers of creation and nurturing qualities; the relationship between a mother and her child is a powerful feminine form of devotion towards nature. To her, this is the purest and the most fertile relationship that human bonds can harbour. In this painting, the foliage symbolises growth, productivity, and the quality of nourishment. Women have always been metaphorically important to her work in expressing sexuality as a means to explore human conditions.
“The feminine form is the most enriched reality on earth. Since the inception of art, everything revolves around the female body and form. Being a woman, women’s bodies have been my inspiration and the sublime act of embracing artful-existentialism has piqued my interest from a very early age. However, I feel that it is a tough task to celebrate femininity in a world engrossed in objectification—my art particularly, looks at women in the mythic and fantasy narratives, where I look at the ‘divinity’ staged in the feminine form. The power a woman possesses in her role as a procreator, is not only an undefined variable force, but her body is capable of so many creative functions that it is beyond imagination. My women are not just beautiful, they are big, voluptuous, mighty, empowered, and full of expression. Women are beautiful in their most contemplative, remorsed, or even, in their utmost negative states. Stories of their emotive states have created so much art that a woman’s beauty is beyond her bodily presentation.”
ANJOLIE ELA MENON
Mother and Child
This painting by Anjolie Ela Menon, who is an eminent painter and a muralist, was inspired by Amrita Sher-Gil’s painting on the subject of a young pale girl standing nude next to a seated older woman. Menon’s canvases exhibit a theme which she often repeats—that is of the mother and child. In the painting, we see the mother who is in her prime and the pubescent young daughter, who’s on the verge of adolescence—portraying a beautiful juxtaposition of the relationship in which the mutual bond is significant.
“Taught by my guru, Sushil Mukherjee, at Lawrence School—I was painting in oils by the age of 13! I still remember I sold my first painting at the age of 15 to Dr Zakhir Hussain for the royal sum of ₹100. Having done several nudes—mostly of my friends and family, I adore doing luminous paintings on masonite made with translucent layers of paint that are burnished to a soft glow. Whenever painting nudes, I have made sure that the portraits are gentle and full of empathy.
Having painted one early self portrait, I look outside the self in my portrayal of the nude figure. Much of my style of painting was initially influenced by Amrita Sher-Gil and later by Frida Kahlo.