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
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
'Visibility', yes, but despite all this, the exhibition in general fails to carry
that intense image and the attempted 'voice'.