2000 - 2006

Women Artists from Devi Art Foundation's Collection

Devi Art Foundation

In coinciding with the Google Cultural Institute's ongoing focus on Women in Arts and Culture this exhibit will feature some of the seminal works by Women Artists from Devi Art Foundation's collection. The artists presented here broadly explore the issues of place, memory, gender and identity politics.  

Letters From Home by Zarina Hashmi, 2004.
The work of Zarina Hashmi is defined by her adherence to the personal and the essential. An early interest in architecture and mathematics is reflected in her use of geometry and her emphasis on structural purity. Letters from Home is series of prints based on letters written by the artist’s sister who lived in Pakistan. Lines of handwritten prose in Urdu are overlaid with maps and blueprints of distant homes and places. The letter exchanges between the sisters mark significant moments of their lives – the death of a parent, for instance – and some of the prints bear impressions of places relevant to their estranged lives. Hashmi conveys in these works the experience of living far away from her home in New York and how the letters from her sister in Pakistan make up to the image of a home for decades. 

'After Partition, it was hard to cross into Pakistan as an Indian citizen. My sister Rani’s letters connected me to the family I had been separated from. '

'In Fourth Letter, Rani writes about leaving her house, now that her children have moved away from their home in Pakistan. With her daughter married and her son studying in the United States, the house felt too large for her husband and her.'

'She ends her letter with, “my little sister, please don’t cry, but when you come to the house it feels like home and I missed you very much when you didn’t visit this spring.”'

'When I could visit her house, she would lead me to the garden and say, “Remember this fragrance?” It would be a plant that grew in our family’s garden in Aligarh. She had filled her garden with plants and flowers from our childhood home, and in a way she was creating a home we could share.'

'Many people have asked why I titled this portfolio Letters from Home when I have never lived in Pakistan.'

'For me, home is not a place. It is wherever the people you care about most are waiting for you.'

Feather Duster by Bharti Kher, 2004.
Bharti Kher is one of India's most prominent contemporary artists who stepped into the international limelight. Featuring elements of India's society and aesthetic heritage, Kher's works span a wide range of topics and themes, stretching the imaginations of the audience with dramatic stories. 

Kher transforms everyday icons into transgressive figures. For example, the demure or cheerful housewife, the severe or doting mother figure, or the bored or eager socialite may morph into new avatars as ape-woman, sexual predators (a Tigress –in-Boots dominatrix wielding feathery and vinyl tools of her trade), a voluptuous glacial mannequin sporting a hairy tarantula on her hand like a jewel, retro-futuristic space cadets, and were-horse and ape hostesses.

Her female hybrids pose in model-like contrapposto or sit revealing plush curves as their gestures swing between liberation and exhibitionism, perpetually divided, their bodies move inexorably towards other worlds and existence while critiquing our own.

Kher’s works investigates the female body from different perspectives.

Hirsute by Bharti Kher, 1999/2000

Hirsute by Bharti Kher involves the meticulous repetition of distinctly Indian, gender-specific symbol of moustache. It has been said that Hirsute was a response by Kher to the intimidating ‘male gaze’ encountered in the public sphere when she moved to live here as a Indian born and brought up in Britain.

Needles Series by Roohi Ahmed, 2003.
Roohi Ahmed lives and works in Karachi, Pakistan. Ahmed teaches at the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture (IVS) in Karachi. She holds MFA from the College of Fine Art, University of New South Wales (UNSW), Sydney. As a multi-disciplinary artist, her work often draws upon cartographical references in order to investigate the ontological realities of human existence in a degenerating political, social and religious environment.

This series of minimalist constructions is composed with large sewing needles fixed on white board. These spare assemblages addresses the tensions and possibilities of Partition with the approach of the linear forms, the juxtapositions and the cartographic references.

This set of works have one-word Urdu titles that, in combination with the visual impact of the work, convey a potent charge.

Pesh qadmi (Advance), 2003, Needles on board, 16 x 16 IN. (each)

Taiyyar ( All Set ), 2003, Needles on board, 16 x 16 IN. (each)

From the Qajar Series by Shadi Ghadrian, 2002. 
In creating her photographs, Iranian artist Shadi Ghadrian borrows antique traditional Qajar era dresses. She enlisted her sisters and other women in family and friends to pose in the style of the old photographs. She constructed a classical 19th century curtained backdrop to emulate the look and feel of the early photos. 

Ghadrian says 'I decided to add something modern in the old photos,” so i included objects that are “forbidden” or restricted in Iran: a CD player, television, guitar, censored books, beer cans, a bicycle (women are not allowed to ride bikes).'

'They capture women’s interior lives and desires, behind closed doors. The photographs are sandwiched between tradition and modern, past and present, east and west, public and private, reality and fantasy.'

From the Qajar series by Shadi Ghadrian, 2002.

Native Women of South India by Pushpamala N and Clare Arni 2002-04.
The project investigates images of South Indian women using the genre of photo-performance. By recreating characters of South Indian women from familiar or historical sources, ranging from newspaper photographs, calendar icons, film stills to 16th century miniature painting. 

This series of works comment about female representation in art and popular visual culture.

Each picture in this series of photographs extends into a narrative with different histories and image-making. There's a vamp, a rustic woman, a marginal Toda woman, a criminal woman, a mother goddess, a seductress — typical images of women as seen by the male hierarchy or patriarchy.

By enacting them, the artist comments on the South Indian society and its stereotypes on women.

Mariam by Amber Hammad , 2006.
When the notion of the ‘artist’ emerged in the Renaissance, artistic practices arguably became a means for self-expression. Art became a reflection of its maker. As such, most images and objects made by artists now could be considered ‘self-portraits’. Artist, Amber Hammad makes this presence quite literal in her work by inserting herself in the image. 

She becomes the subject of the work, even as her digitally composed prints explore narratives well known around the world.

Maryam, the Arabic name for Mary, recreates the seated Virgin and Child genre that has been the subject of countless paintings, prints and sculptures in the Western world. In Amber Hammad’s work, the story is ‘Islamicized’ and made more relevant to women’s roles in Islamic society today.

Silence (Blood Wedding) by Anita Dube, 1997.
DescriptionAnita Dube made Silence (Blood Wedding) at a time of intense emotional disturbance. She was dealing with a failed relationship and her father was diagnosed with a fatal illness. Using real human bones as an armature, Dube sheathed them in a skin of deep red velvet and embellished them with beads and lace. Bejewelled, these pieces are effulgent; the objects embody what the artist describes as a ‘deep rejection of death’.

As we take delight in remnants of a dead person unknown to us, the beauty of these objects becomes profoundly disturbing. Bones, upon them, fabric, upon that, beads: the artist piles meaning upon meaning on the same entity.

The final layer perhaps is the plexiglass case provided for preservation and display of each of the thirteen pieces. Self-consciously presenting these embellished bones as art, the work questions notions of cultural heritage, relics, the desire for possession, retrieval and appropriation.

Untitled by Mithu Sen, 2006.
Mithu Sen’s untitled teeth sculpture brings to mind the myth of vagina dentata or the ‘toothed vagina’. Expressing man’s fear of castration during the act of copulation, this myth warns of the dangers of sex with women. Confronted with the sculpture, viewers enter a psychological state similar to the fearful men as they watch this female orifice fraught with jagged threats.

Sen uses wit as she takes the ultimate male horror to the point of absolute nightmarish hysteria only to hold it up to the audience as a sculptural frieze. Fear of castration escalates to the level of the impossible, and the fetishization of the fear becomes comical.

The work can be read as a caution against women, but also as a caution against the stereotyping of women as the praying mantis that seduces the male of the species but is also dangerous and fatal for him.

Armour suit for Rani of Jhansi by Naiza Khan, 2001.
The piece Armour Suit for Rani of Jhansi, as the title suggests, is an armour with a skirt, made by using varied materials such as metal, feathers and velvet, amalgamating fact with fiction.

It is a play on the garment like the skirt and the multifaceted personality of the Rani (queen).

Devi Art Foundation
Credits: Story

Exhibit curated by: Srinivas Aditya Mopidevi, Devi Art Foundation.

Image courtesy and copyright of the Artists and Devi Art Foundation.

References:
Exhibition Publication, Where in the World, Devi Art Foundation, curated by Deeksha Nath 2008-09.

Exhibition Publication, Resemble Reassemble, Devi Art Foundation, curated by Rashid Rana, 2010.

Exhibition Publication, Elephant in the Dark, Devi Art Foundation, curated by Amir Ali Ghassemi, 2012.

External References:
Native Women of South India - Manners and Customs, Asia Art Archive http://www.aaa.org.hk/Collection/Details/27814

Aditi De, Performance Photography, The Hindu, http://www.thehindu.com/thehindu/mag/2004/03/28/stories/2004032800400800.htm

Zarina Hashmi, Letters from Home.
http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/hashmi-letters-from-home-p80181

Font of identity: Zarina Hashmi at the Tate Modern – video interview http://artradarjournal.com/2014/05/30/font-of-identity-zarina-hashmi-at-the-tate-modern-video-interview/

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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