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Visible Voices

Visible Voices is an event that took place between 20-Oct-2000 and 11-Nov-2000 in Hyderabad.
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No, these aren't those hues and cries raised by feminist artists - on the contrary, they are general individual preoccupations on the themes and styles of over three generations of Andhra-based women artists. Except, that is, for the work of special invitee artist Rekha Rodwittiya of Baroda, who created an active stir among the feminist women painters, and who is represented in the present exhibition with a bold Intaglo (etching) titled "Whichever way you turn, the voice of anguish can still be heard…" (1993).

This is an image of a resolute woman in a gesture of wearing her veil, and has symbolic images depicting the anguish of a woman. Against Rekha's stimulating work, there is a series of mute pictures by Hyderabad-based artists like the young Nandini Goud with her small scale pictures / portraits of goat, fruits, etc., Laxmi Reddy's still-life paintings, Anjani Reddy's series of women "practicing music…", and Rohini Reddy's thick, gaudy fiber glass relief pictures with equally broad wooden frames. Some of them (leave alone conceptual art) do not even make good decorative works!

Well, talking of conceptual art, there are some artists who deliberately, in order to 'make a statement', end up fabricating their works leading to confused thoughts and aesthetics. Like Padma Reddy, whose titles for her layered and overlapping etchings with scribbles juxtaposed in the composition are "My Eden is private, no entry please", "I shall take the virginity test…how about you"(!!!), and so on.

Works from an earlier generation of artists had all the painterly qualities and also an honesty depicted in the chosen simple themes. Kavitha Deuskar's huge and free hand drawings and paintings of ethnic, strong and yet graceful women with an attitude, and Kusum Viswanth's animated pictures of women and children amidst greenery are some such sincere works.

Interestingly, the exhibition also showcased some of the rare paintings done in the early half of the last century. Damerla Satyavati, whose simple pencil drawings of rocks and trees and a picturesque narrative water colour painting titled "Birth of Bharatha" were done between 1930 and 1949 can be characterized with inspiration derived from Ajanta paintings. In a similar stylistic and subtle emotive mood of painting, B Krishnamma paints "Rani Satyavati sending message to Prithviraj Chauhan" (1928). This emotional picture shows a pale heroine with a confidante against a dull and equally sad scenic backdrop.

Kamala Mittal is represented in the exhibition with two of her ornate paintings done in the manner of Mughal miniatures. Kamala, with dexterous and intricate drawings and coloring, paints "Chand Bibi of Bijapuri and Ibrahim Adil Shah" (1960) in a lengthy composition. Farukh Rifaquat is another artist whose paintings done between 1975 and 1985 in a small scale show a colorful view of Golconda and the Hyderabad rockscapes. The exhibition also includes Malathi Vardharajan's abstract oil paintings, and also Vani Devi's amateur compositions of "memory series".

"Feminist interventions in the history of art contest hegemonic assumptions and expose its underlying values, its silences and prejudices, thereby bringing to the fore a re-reading of the definitions of art and the artist. Visible Voices attempts not just to write some women artists into history, but also to give visibility to their creative output. And it also aims to vehemently voice the presence of women as active art practitioners," says the curator Rohini Iyengar, who painstakingly compiled the exhibition with rare earlier paintings and the works of contemporary women artists.

'Visibility', yes, but despite all this, the exhibition in general fails to carry that intense image and the attempted 'voice'.
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farukh rifaquat, artist from hyderabad
Lakshana Art Gallery events
October 2000 events
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