April 2009, Newsletter
Body & View - Panel Discussion
A work of art is depiction of everything that can be seen or imagined in materiality. What is then an integral expression in a work is the “form”; in our present case is a “body” that embodies several meanings. Art throughout the world have found the human body to be an unusual, fertile and accessible instrument that can be used to celebrate human sexuality, express private traumas or explode gender and social stereotypes.
A body can be very interestingly used to address social and political
realities. If we look at bodies “as something worn”, it is imbued with signification of culture, identity, gender and sexuality. It can be a battleground in the struggle between the individual and society or can serve as a site for self-testing and self discovery. When a body is represented on the canvas, the form either invokes or challenges several or peculiar cultural institutions and values.In all the body becomes an extremely effective visual to reflect on past, present and future of humanity.
Here we shall discuss with the artists of the show- Body as Vessel, various issues surrounding the representation of the body in art, especially in association with their works.
How is body conceived and represented in your works?
Anupam Sud: Through body I explore psychological relationships. The bodies in my work are not referral of any particular regional or historical identity but are referent to issues of identity in a society as such. My prime need was to remove distinctions in society- because I feel we are one race, with no distinction in colour and caste. That is
why you will see no colour in my etchings.
Puneet Kaushik: My works are referred as presenting the “ugly”, but I feel there is beauty in ugliness and ugliness in everything that is beautiful.
What are your references for the present body of works?
Gogi Saroj Pal: My life and my cultural identity carve the directions of my expressions. Inspirations for expression emerge around and within me. I want my creative concerns to be relevant to my times; imbibing local, regional and universal consciousness. I want to express these in my own creative visual imagery.
Shambhavi Singh: The 15th century mystic Kabir and scene from Satyajit’s Pather Panchali are the inspirations for this series. Kabir mines the fundamental components of the pot-clay and space (we are the original clay vessel). And, the scenes from Pather Panchali take us to a related area where a blinking eye appears in the darkness, before another frame reveals. The peeper is the girl-who is looking into a ghatak. For an instant we, the audience, became part of the dark void into which the child peered or perhaps, we are the void.
Water 39.5” x 27.5” Kajal, Neel and Acrylic on Paper
Puneet Kaushik: I draw my references from several things: say the goat sacrifice appears in many cultures, in Nepal, Islam, in tribal societies, in Andhra for puppetry etc. Same body is here referent of several value systems and what happens to them when there is a shift, this shift could be territorial or case of life and death. What I hint at is that the body is sacrificed at many levels: emotional, physical and 3 mental. It is consumed in many ways and is representative of different values. Every time you relocate yourself, you are sacrificing so much.
What is the significance of material in your works?
Gogi Saroj Pal: I am open to experimentations as far as mediums are concerned, I have worked with several and every time the choice of material is very close to the thought and the feeling I want to evoke. For Natti Binodini, I wanted to use a medium that produces a nostalgic feeling and appears earthy. Gouache is very interesting medium; it has historical reference and evokes a very familiar feeling. I also used Indian paper that was suitable for the concept and while working I could explore more of her. It supports her identity and represents her physical space.
Puneet Kaushik: Body is marked by space and time; I have used human nail, skin, hair and so on. All this disintegrates at different speed. All these elements carry subjective baggages of meaning. The goat skin has references of sacrifice, while hair and nail of relics. They bear memory of someone’s existence and absence. The material in my
work conceptually provokes to think of who we are?
Sacrificial Wombs II side I 48” x 40”
The ideas of sexuality and gender are invariably attached to the representations of “body” in works of art. Since the early feminist interventions, there have been several re-evaluations of body, especially the female body in traditional artistic context, though differently in the East and the West. How do you respond to the connotations of gender and sexuality in the representation of body in your works?
Mithu Sen: I use irony and humor to surface morbid issues regarding violence, love, passion & gaze. In many ways I actually do not establish or shy to establish body as a whole. The question of gender is something which is often prodded towards me and I specifically deny the proto feminist reading of my works. I keep my sexuality not as a baggage to be always dumped on my work but rather explore and celebrate feminine sexuality at large
Gogi Saroj Pal: I am an optimist. When I started working the feminism of west was seen as ideal. I disagreed with many of their ways. My parents were freedom fighter and I have learnt from them to respect freedom and independence of all. I look at those women who have created their niche in adverse circumstances but did not receive enough attention. Here in India, issues are different: we have casteism, regionalism and linguistic problems as well. In the 80’s I made series on Kamdhenu cow (the wish granting cow) and the female connotations attached to it. Now, I see in mist of troubles, Natti Binodini who established herself in difficult times. We today have become very adventurous, outspoken and independent but we tend to
forget women who paved path for us.
Natti Binodini IV 29” x 20” Gouache on Paper
Shambhavi Singh: We have fear of not knowing the things that we do not easily identify and we are always looking for a frame to refer to. I think my work resist any kind of representations in which it’s difficult to encompass the complexities of the “world of gender”. In my art practice I have eventually become freer as I address my own identity as something not fixed.
There is a classic debate of “nude” and the “naked” in representation of body in art, where the “naked” refers to be without clothes and “nude” is a form, to be admired for its aesthetic beauty. In contemporary times, works of art employ both: “the nude” and “the naked” in different contexts to arouse different feelings. Your works present an interesting angle to this situation. Please explain.
Mithu Sen: My works in many or in all capacity escapes the regular debate of nude or naked as I use body as map, sometime just the intimate details in focus as a lever, intestine, teeth, lip or backbone, whereas sometimes I have these unrelated parts/details juxtaposed to tingle the eroticism without bringing the naked body in question. This work series specifically is far from the contentions of erotic or aesthetically pleasing naked body but rather plunges into more anatomical studies of internal organs. It’s the dissection of narcissism
and actually breaks the beautiful sublime nude to real basic essential (organs). The X-Ray, CT scan etc which our bodies are subjected to, often perpetuate an anxiety, a fear of unknown breeding within us. Most of us in today’s age and time of uncertainty have gone through various precautionary tests, these works in many way are more personal astute observations of deep internal fear & muffled scream buried within the emotional incisions of organic representation.
Man Hiding 28” x 20” Mixed Media Drawing on Handmade Paper
Anupam Sud: I have dealt here with history in a witty way. My works are sensual in the sense of art but need not be sexual. The ‘Olympia’ and the ‘Vows and Words’ portray contemporary scenario. We are in times, when women are not just victims to voyeurism but also at times use it. I call it law of nature, perhaps, when women were suppressed for a long time, some are taking their dues. On a serious note, the women in the works are confident; they are not ready to take domination. Their posture shows confidence and power.
Generally when it comes to representation of “body”, especially nude in reference to culture, history and so on in order to address social issues. The works are faced with enormous censorship? What are your opinions for the same?
Anupam Sud: When I started there was no issue like censorship. I have mostly worked with figures without clothes but not “perverted”, but body has multiple dimensions to it, which we as artists explore. When you make things wear clothes, you associate it with some cultural identity. Bare body, at least in my works are representative of universal value. They have no social, communal references at all. Once I used landscape, which I rarely use otherwise, someone commented that it was not ‘Indian’. I have always found it difficult to understand, that why things have to be rejected on grounds of regionalism. India is a versatile land, and not very different from Central Asia or South-East Asia. How can we then reject something as Indian and not so Indian?
Persona 26” x 19” Etching
Mithu Sen: In Japan, Awagami Residency, 2008; I used the overtly sexualized human figures referred/borrowed from the Manga pornographic comic series. These Hantai images are highly popular, underground subculture of Japan which I was aware of being nonacceptable and an unsaid disagreement to something so explicitly sexual to be in public by the upright and closed Japanese society with high moral grounds. Though with all these odds I presented huge images and an interactive site installation in two museums in Japan which was well received, but when this exhibition travelled to Korea for another museum show, it was scrapped from the show saying it is overtly sexual and is not suitable for public viewing. This was one time
very recently (Feb. 2009) where my freedom of expression has been crammed and questioned. Here the body was not real but fantasized idealistic sexual ultimate imageries baked to feed human lust.