Eight women, myriad expressions


Eight woman artists will be showing their work at The Cube Gallery in Moira at an exhibition interestingly titled ‘She’. NT BUZZ caught up with the curator Samira Sheth to take a peek into what is on offer for art aficionados in the state

Janice Savina Rodrigues |NT BUZZ

Art buffs, especially those with a penchant for feminism and all its forms, are in for a treat with the opening of a month-long exhibition of artworks at Moira’s The Cube Gallery. With eight women artists displaying their works in tandem with what each one believes, the exhibition ‘She’ is a beautiful cacophony of voices waiting to be heard.

“It is a celebration of womanhood,” says curator Samira Sheth. The art world is not new to Samira, who has been curating exhibitions and writes art columns. When the founder of The Cube Gallery Sonny Singh spoke about a possible exhibition, she grabbed the opportunity to make ‘She’ a reality.

A topic very close to her heart, she loved the idea of exploring how women are seen in art, the gender biases, the challenges and the ways they are represented. “Being closely associated with artists in Goa, more importantly women artists, I decided to do just that. We made it a celebration of women. The exhibition is not coming from a victim perspective, but a celebratory one,” says Samira.

The eight artists include: Shilpa Nasnolkar, Verodina De Souza, Fernanda de Melo, Kausalya Gadekar, Liesl Cotta De Souza, Chaitali Morajkar, Katharina Kakar and Soumitrimayee Paintal. “Their work is very female centric, some work with figures of women, others with symbolisms in fertility and the like; all this comes to our mind when we think of women. They see women in a lot of different lights, the paintings are saying something; it all about challenge or questioning the male gaze, or talking about the female body,” says Samira.

These eight women have styles of their own and impressively have very different mediums. From watercolour to charcoal to installations to embroidery, ‘She’ has a wide range of expressions. Fernanda de Melo and Shilpa Nasnolkar’s female protagonists are crude and coarse – drawn with a raw vigour and delineated in strong expressionist brushwork and textural depth. “There are no idealised sexual roles here – these women are confrontational and bold – subverting traditional roles to bounce the male gaze right back where it belongs. Self-pleasure and self-indulgence are paramount as these characters loom large and are unashamedly, fiercely feminine,” says Samira.

Men and women are not alike and these artists have taken up the yoke of feminism to recover feminine qualities as being valuable. About Liesl’s works, Samira says: “Embodying curiosity, desire and joy, Liesl Cotta De Souza’s embroidered figures emerge from their textile backgrounds to create space for greater sexual expression of women. These female characters shrug off the burden of the exploitative male gaze with a casual insouciance as they explore, play and live in the moment.”

Chaitali Morajkar on the other hand appropriates and simultaneously subverts the dominant male hierarchies of order and symmetry to structure her feminine worlds. Her women are centre and core, house and home, creating and sustaining life.

Kausalya Gadekar’s delicate watercolours with gouache on paper make way for another complex aspect of social propriety – menstruation. “She takes on the taboo subject, drawing attention to a biological process that affects half the population but continues to be absent in public consciousness,” says Samira. Kausalya’s works tell of the fact that the once sacred cycle of life – the natural process of menstruation – has been used to cast women out in isolation and shame.

“The natural flow of desire and sexuality runs through Katharina Kakar’s abstraction. She uses chillies and soil in her installations and these become potent symbols of feminine power, desire and fertility,” says Samira. Kakar also will have a video installation titled ‘She’, wherein she uses the power of words and visuals, labelling and representation evoking the feminine associations to the Earth, soil and clay.

Verodina De Souza’s handmade female figurines show their kinship with the clay from which they are formed and the high temperatures they are fired at asserting the significance of the woman artist as creator and art maker.

Soumitrimayee Paital’s makes up her own mythologies and chooses to represent her own self in a series of self-portraits drawn from childhood memories and nostalgia. “There is one where she is a goddess like Sita, or in the other she is a bird. It fits into our idea beautifully where you see yourself in so many different ways,” says Samira.

This is a significant show because it reflects how some of the most important women artists in Goa – established, mid-career and emerging – are seeing women in contemporary art. It centres upon, validates and locates their thematic concerns and individual perspectives.

Speaking about the exhibition, Sonny Singh adds that it is an important show for the gallery because it challenges stereotypes, one of them being the current culture of demonising men. “With She, we hope to move away from prejudices based on gender, including the biases against men.”

The organisers wanted to portray that there are no stereotypes and that women cannot be captured in one particular mould. “It is ‘she’ (the woman) in all these different forms through different media,” says Samira.

(‘She’ will be open to public viewing from October 6 to November 5 at The Cube Gallery in Moira.)