IS THIS A SELF-PORTRAIT?

Review by Tanishka D’Lyma
December 01, 2018

 

By Tanishka D’Lyma

 

Rekha@Sixty: Transient Worlds of Belonging
Rekha Rodwittiya
October 31 to December 15, 2018
Sakshi Gallery, Mumbai

 

In her earlier works, Rekha Rodwittiya's central focus in almost every frame was the prominently unapologetic pose, usually frontal, of a female figure, one that was to be encountered. “Is this a self-portrait?” people asked. 

 

As an artist who is imbued with a feminist fervour, inclined to the stories of women, whose concern is the historical experiences of women, she says it is as much a self-portrait as it is about all women. 

 

Today in her latest showcase, Rekha@Sixty: Transient Worlds of Belonging, her work starts and ends with a photograph of herself, inlaid within her art where she dissolves into the work and becomes it herself. And in doing so, Rodwittiya creates a reality that comes full circle as would in the case of a neatly and precisely drawn novel. At 60, having taken the course her life has and championing the ideas she does, she is a feminist symbol as are her drawings which is why the photographic inclusion complements her art. And after all, isn’t the art the reflection of the artist itself? 

 

Rodwittiya’s show is a look at her life, the collective female history, and shared experiences through female forms. The exhibition showcases a vast series of a new body of work that includes an impressive 60 piece set of paperwork and unseen multimedia bodies of watercolour and acrylic paintings and photographs.

 

This year, her showcase not only marks her 60th birthday but also her journey and the experiences one gathers through six decades of listening, understanding, learning, talking creating. Rodwittiya’s art is the voice of women, encapsulating her personal experiences, politics, and an interaction of the two that govern it. Her drawings continue to define the strength and beauty of the woman and her intimate, intuitive experiences and ideology, her long-lived struggles that can be understood through her everyday ordinary life. 

 

Her central female subjects portraying women’s everyday essentials in the space around them are actually metaphors for their spirituality, fabric and experiences unique to themselves. With studied insights accompanied with psychological and learnt ones, the result on canvas is an exact view into womanhood. Informing her landscape of feminism, and investigating into the everyday world of women are pictorial devices that vehicle meaning across to the viewer. The use of metaphors and myths, of course along with the skill of Rodwittiya’s brush, enrich the drawings with meaning.

 

Her work is also the rejection of the absolute baselessness of patriarchy, the assumed roles that dictate a false sense of superiority. She juxtaposes this age-old idea with drawings that are informed with the strength of the female. 

 

Her personal politics guide her brush and her repertoire of memories builds the repertoire of her work. And as always she ensures she hears her own voice echoing the “anthem of female empowerment”. 

 

Following no structured pedagogy, she engages her memory and sensibilities to create content, to create art. She approaches her canvas in the solitude of her own company in her studio. In the silence, her mind “distils and filters an idea into the exactness of articulation” she desires, is what she explains in an interview with The Hindu. Her vocabulary as we have established is informed by her life as “a feminist and a painter”. She neatly summarises in our interview with her, “My relationship with the world is governed by my engagement with gender politics... I have always lived my life with an alertness to where interventions are needed and where questions need answers sought. My art mirrors these preoccupations.”

 

The show saturates with nature dotted with an animal, mostly a bird, posed grandly, either prominently or quietly hidden in plain sight. Rodwittiya explains that consuming art such as Yakshagana and Theyyam, being occupied with pat painters from West Bengal and potters from Molela in Rajasthan and listening to tribal and folk tales about nature has stayed with her ever since and found its way into her own story. 

 

“Colour is a strong element in my work. My palette is influenced by cultural practices and through the manner in which I invest meaning in it,” Rodwittiya states. As is with her work, the show is a vibrant affair painted with bright tones and all shades of fuschia, red, earthy greens and the colours that a life with experience and the patience to evaluate it come with. And at this, we must summarise with her words to the Hindustan Times, “Living within the here and the now — along with the anticipation that tomorrow holds the possibilities of new hope.”

 

As each of us carries an ongoing internal monologue, Rekha Rodwittiya’s work helps to bring out this conversation for further assessment and confrontation. It’s a clear invitation to viewers to look into personal memories and better understand oneself and experiences. 

 

Rekha@Sixty: Transient Worlds of Belonging will be showcased at Sakshi Gallery, Grants Building Apollo Bandar at Colaba in Mumbai till December 15, 2018.