Online Magazine
Artist Profile3
Encapsulating Rekha Rodwittiya’s life and practice
“My life is often like a well-stacked applecart that might take a tumble, making me scramble to bring back order around me. But rather than falling completely, I prefer to limp and catch at any stabilizing props around myself, to force the balance of my routine back into place. I think these occurrences, which disrupt (though not enjoyable in the least!) are really essential lessons in survival…”

The above piece of blog post sums up Rekha Rodwittiya’s outlook. For this celebrated artist, painting has always been a free form of expression that lets her enter into an honest dialogue with herself and others. A recurring motif in her bold-hued paintings is the female figure that represents shades of feminine emotions, concerns and persona sans objectifying them. Her female protagonists are often elevated to iconic proportions. They can simultaneously occupy multiple avatars.

In very clear form, the works explain the artist’s viewpoint that female empowerment and its attendant baggage is rather a complex issue. A staunch feminist, she believes that in spite of the gender inequality, a multitude of voices still express the desire to dispel the stereotype of gender bias, and look to accommodate the complex changes we know to be real. This strong social consciousness may well be attributed to a ‘strange kind of sophisticated otherness’ instilled in her by her parents, as she has stated in an interview.

Her father worked in the air force. Growing up in a rather isolated camp life, her creative self became her companion. In fact, she always wanted to be a painter. Born in Bangalore in 1958, Rekha Rodwittiya’s did her B.A.(Fine Arts) at Faculty of Fine Arts, Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda (1976-81) and M.A.(Painting) from Royal College of Art, London (1982-84). Having practiced Photography under Prof. Jyoti Bhatt, she studied Film & Video at Fulham Institute, London (1982-83). She received Inlaks Scholarship in 1982, and was also invited for a residency project at The Konsthogskolan Art College courtesy Svenska Institute, Sweden (1988-89). The Rockefeller Foundation Asian Cultural Council offered The Staff Fellowship to her in 1990. She also received a Junior Fellowship from India’s Ministry of Culture in 1994.

Sakshi Gallery arranged an exhibit of her paintings in 2008 to celebrate the five decades. Aptly entitled ‘rekha@fifty’, the show was an assertion of the artist’s commitment to what she has consciously structured as the grid, encapsulating the essence of her life and existence. Her works were presented as a gift of celebration to her audience, with the underlying message of living life with passion. The mixed acrylic & oil works attempted to set right the seesawing tilt of male/female inequality. Among her other selected solo exhibitions are ‘Second Skin’ at The Air Gallery, London (2007); ‘Once Upon A Time….’, Shridharani Gallery, New Delhi (2006); ‘Encrypted Soliloquies’, Singapore (2005); 'Bye Bye Baby!', Sakshi Gallery, Mumbai (2003); and a show of works presented at Art Amsterdam in 2000. Her noteworthy group exhibitions this year comprise 'Singularities' at RL Fine Arts, New York and ' the Line of Fire' at Ahmedabad’s Lemongrasshopper, apart from 'Long Gone & Living Now', Gallerie Mirchandani + Steinreucke, Mumbai; 'Zip Files', Tao Art Gallery, Mumbai; inaugural show of Sakshi Gallery, Taipei (all in 2009).

Regarding her position as a staunch feminist, the artist quips she has instinctively been one, reasoning she has invariably identified with those who are marginal or marginalized. She adds: “You cannot remain on the periphery of an issue you identify with.” However, there is a tender side to her personality as well. Trying to retell stories we carry with us, she brought to the fore in her 2006 series an amalgamation of truths and desires, memories and histories - the residues of experience that define our existence.

‘Once upon a time…’ alluded to both collective and personal territories she inhabits, the yin and yang of he existence, as she put it. However, these paintings were not sheer illustrative stories about her personal life. In keeping with her broader concerns, they explored the life cycle – a sort of homage to the ancestry of womanhood, transforming the presence of her persona into its emblematic representation.

The artist describes herself as a colorist for whom it’s not an element she needs to struggle with. According to her, metaphors culled from specific sources of reference, get transformed by virtue of how they are finally delivered, to evoke wider meanings. Interestingly, the male figure has gradually disappeared from her work. Summing up her art practice, she has stated: “There are certain things within the history and the currency of life, which get absorbed into an artist’s vocabulary. My work displays a consistent involvement with the human figure as a leitmotif to embody man’s predicament. I’ve also made a conscious choice to engage with the delineation of the female figure over time. I employed expressionistic language in my early works. Though the concerns largely remain the same, now the negotiations are different.”