Presenting ‘her’ vision

Anjali Jhangiani
Tuesday, 16 October 2018

For her 60th birthday, Rekha Rodwittiya has put together an exhibition titled Rekha@Sixty - Transient Worlds of Belonging that looks back on her spiritual and physical journey as a feminist artist

Baroda-based artist Rekha Rodwittiya has been the voice of the feminist movement in the art industry in India. Her motive through her artwork is to present the female form without objectifying it. 

After graduating from The Faculty of Fine Arts, Baroda, she pursued a Master’s degree in painting from Royal College of Art, London. She was also conferred with the Rockefeller Foundation Asian Cultural Council Staff Fellowship and was invited to create an exhibition to commemorate 50 years of the United Nations in Geneva. 

To celebrate her 60th birthday, Rodwittiya has come out with an exhibition titled Rekha@Sixty - Transient Worlds of Belonging, which will feature a body of work that looks back on her spiritual and physical journey as an artist. 

Her early works dealt with more naturalistic representations of the female form with narratives inspired by her life at that time. “In my time in London (as a student at the RCA in the early ’80s), my figuration changed dramatically. I used fractured and fragmented imagery that allowed me to discourse about issues of dominance and subjugation that till date continue to be rampantly prevalent in all societies,” she says, adding, “Over the years I brought to my imagery a more pared down essentialised focus of the female figure — iconised to situate the celebration of life and to acknowledge that the female energy is a powerful force within nature.” 

Rodwittiya talks about how she has strictly adhered to feminist ideals since she was 18 years old. “And till date this remains the most vital core of my existence. My work as a public figure within the Indian cultural space has placed feminist concerns as the main fulcrum to everything I articulate through my art, my writing, my teaching, the programmes via The Collective Studio Baroda I host, the philanthropy that I engage with and the identity of my self representation,” she says. 

She recalls how she never thought she’d be a part of a movement in the art industry, but kept producing her art that was inspired by her beliefs, and that offered the possibility of larger implications of impact and significance. “The most important thing for me is to always recognise how privileged I am and to know the value of it. It is this that propels me to always look outside of myself to seek where my interventions may provide benefit, and to hold an alert consciousness at all times,” she says. 

Her collection of work titled Transient Worlds of Belonging 2018, explores a variety of themes. “I have walked across the many pages of the nation’s emerging history, after its struggle for independence, sometimes in celebration and sometimes in anguish. And it is the culmination of these myriad experiences that create the context of my existence that feeds the images within the works presented in this show,” says the artist. 

She shares that her art is inspired by larger histories — both personal and collective, that are culled from all corners of the world. 

“The paintings reflect images from everyday life. The art contains subtexts that act as indicators to reveal more detailed enquiries. The paintings include objects I use to establish my relationship with the world at large and in particular. They are often my possessions, from which I extract metaphors and formulate a personalised symbology. At other times, they are taken from the palimpsest of archived imagery that express the legacy of human history,” she says. 

Apart from the paintings, the exhibition will also feature her mixed-media work. The artist has travelled extensively, spent hours in museums visiting and revisiting works that have attached themselves to her personal world of identity and belonging. “In the objects that I photograph, I find narratives of personal significance, and then I relocated them into new configurations within the theatre of my conception. The camera holds its own history within my life,” says Rodwittiya who took up professional photography during her years as a student in Baroda for financial independence. After putting the camera aside for two decades, she started using it for her mixed media work. “I remain a painter at all times. My intervention with materials is always through the prism of a painter’s perception,” she concludes.

Rekha@Sixty - Transient Worlds of Belonging opens at Sakshi Gallery, Mumbai, on October 31 and carries on till November 30

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