Where SHE Does As SHE Pleases

8 artists from Goa turned the spotlight on femininity, sparking a conversation about gender, female identity and experience through painting, drawing, sculpture, video and installation in She. Curated by Samira Sheth, the exhibition opened to a full house drawing in art lovers from Goa and beyond. The tremendous response was a revealing indicator of the theme finding a universal appeal among a diverse audience.

The artists were as diverse – in style and perspective. Liesl Cotta De Souza’s finely embroidered textile canvases presented women figures simply enjoying their ‘being’. Swinging, exploring, anticipating – these female protagonists are created out of thread and fabric, shaded and textured with skilful mastery.

Established artist Verodina de Sousa elevated her work to another level with her new collection of sculpted stoneware. Touched with hints of colour, her figures recline, gossip and come alive from the clay she moulds to such stunning effect. Viewers soon realize that they are in the presence of a very accomplished artist who definitely needs to exhibit more. Shilpa Nasnolkar’s women do as they please, defiant of the restricting male gaze. They are placed front and centre, looking out at the viewer freely from their boards and canvases painted in bold colours and strong brushstrokes. Simultaneously, we see Fernanda De Melo’s powerful charcoal figures that move viewers with their innate strength. Her series was dedicated to mothers of mentally challenged children. While undergoing training with mentally disabled children, Fernanda witnessed first-hand what their mothers face. Their sheer dedication and commitment to the well being of their children inspired this moving series.

Katharina Kakar’s installation anchored the show. Bronze chillies were suspended from the ceiling above a pile of real red chillies, the chillies forming an elemental symbol of female desire, heat, rage, fertility and so much more. Another work, a painted pillar, evoked the power of a goddess while referencing women as ‘pillars’ of society and therefore subject to patriarchal constraints and controls. Her work was visually stunning and deeply evocative. Chaitali Morajkar builds the female form into her watercolours using surrealism to hint at the mystery of the female life force. Her works are layered with meaning and symbolism.

Young water colourists Kausalya Gadekar and Soumitrimayee Paital question gender biases and identity in their own unique styles. Kausalya tackles the ‘impure’ and taboo subject of menstruation in her delicate watercolours while Soumitrimayee takes names she was called in her childhood and visually translates them into a series of self portraits. She is sometimes the free bird in Koeli and sometimes the assertive Choudhury.

All the artists have expressed themselves freely, with strength and passion. Says Samira, “It has been so fulfilling to see these different voices come together and create these compelling images. Each artist has a visual language recognizably her own and I think it is a treat for viewers to see them celebrating femininity all together under one roof and offer these different perspectives in one show.”

Viewers were taken aback, pleased and alternately drawn in to see this array of widely different images closer and with more attention. Undeniably, whichever form She was represented in, She drew them in and challenged fixed ideas and stereotypes of what it means to be ‘feminine’. This is definitely an unmissable art show for any art lover who enjoys work that is fresh and engaging.

She is on at The Cube Gallery, Moira until Nov 6

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