Online Magazine
Artist Profile2
A staunch feminist who touches upon social schisms
A belief that female empowerment and its associated emotional baggage is rather complex in nature marks the works of this staunch feminist. She airs strong voices that inhibit the desire to drive away the stereotype of prevailing gender bias, and clamors for a complete change of mindset in her work that also deals with diverse issues- socio-political as well as the intimate and personal in nature. Acclaimed artist Rekha Rodwittiya’s paintings allow a peep not only into her viewpoint but also her inner realm.

They are not sheer illustrative stories about her personal life, and in keeping with her broader concerns, act as a sort of homage to the ancestry of womanhood, transforming the presence of her persona into its emblematic representation. For her, painting has invariably been a mode of spontaneous expression, prompting a dialogue with herself and those in tune with her philosophy or even against it. The ubiquitous female figure emerges as a recurring motif in her bold-hued paintings, representing diverse shades of emotions and concerns, sans objectifying the same.

Her protagonists often get elevated to iconic proportions, and can attain multiple personas simultaneously. Born in Bangalore in 1958, the proud daughter of a fighter pilot and one of pioneering women cricketers from India, she did her B.A. (Fine Arts) at Faculty of Fine Arts, M.S. University of Baroda and M.A. (Painting) from Royal College of Art, London. Having practiced photography under Jyoti Bhatt, she later studied Film & Video techniques at Fulham Institute, London (1982-83). A recipient of Inlaks Scholarship, she also featured in a residency project at The Konsthogskolan Art College courtesy Svenska Institute, Sweden.

Among her major solos are 'rekha@fifty', Sakshi Gallery, Mumbai (2008); ‘Second Skin’, 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 at Art Amsterdam in 2000. Her recent significant group exhibitions and participations include 'Pause: A Collection', at Sakshi, Mumbai; 'Back to School: Baroda 1979-89', Palette Art Gallery, New Delhi; 'Dali's Elephant', Aicon Gallery, London; 'Singularities', RL Fine Arts, New York; 'Long Gone & Living Now', Gallerie Mirchandani + Steinreucke, Mumbai; 'Zip Files', Tao Art Gallery, Mumbai; ‘Manifestations V', Delhi Art Gallery, Delhi; 'Roots in the Air, Branches Below', San Jose Museum of Art; 'The Intuitive: Logic Revisted', from the Osians Collection at The World Economic Forum, Davos; and 'Finding India: Art for the New century' at Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Taipei.

A solo of her fresh works, entitled ‘Intangible Interlocution: an Anthology of Belonging’ at the Mumbai based Sakshi gallery, provided a kaleidoscopic view of her oeuvre in three distinct segments. ‘Letters of the Universe: When the Sun and the Moon Fall Asleep, Only Then Can I Dance so Naked’ incorporated watercolor paintings with popular stickers plus some personal memorabilia. ‘An Anatomy of Recollection’ comprised digital inkjet prints of intense autobiographic photo-images. Lastly, ‘Diagrams of an Interior Space’ included acrylics and oils on canvases. A few years ago, the venue had hosted major retrospective exhibition, encapsulating the core of her life and art practice. The mixed acrylic & oil works tried to balance out the male/ female inequality.

In fact, she has always resisted any kind of social diktats and censorship. The celebration of womanhood has probably been the most enduring motif in her work amidst this politics of belonging that makes it stand apart. Regarding her position as a staunch feminist, the artist maintains that she has instinctively identified with those who are marginal or marginalized (by society). One cannot and should not stay on the periphery of issues close to one’s heart, she reasons. There’s a tender touch to her narration as well. Trying to retell stories we tend to carry with us, she divulged an amalgamation of truths and desires, memories and histories - the residues of experience that define our existence in her 2006 series.

According to her, metaphors mostly culled from specific reference points, get transformed by virtue of how they’re delivered, to evoke wider meanings in the end. In terms of material, she is also keen to engage with the modern by employing the pop culture’s kitschy aesthetic. Encapsulating her philosophy, 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. Though the concerns largely remain the same, now the negotiations are different.”

Rekha Rodwittiya’s oeuvre is set within the firm framework of this consistent feminist preoccupation. In fact, her personal politics are fashioned from none other than the perspective of gender issues. Her art is conceived from this very mold of her conscience, which holds her feminist spirit as its crux, with an urgency and passion, seeping into every crevice of her existence. Her protagonists often take up various postures or stances in exploring their individual identities. There’s also a subtle play on time, with the artist walking the memory lane with snapshots of the past. But then not everything about her work is overtly sentimental. There is a scissor or a sword in her frames more often than once.

Curiously, while she affirms ‘I’m a feminist’ with palpable ease, she is equally adamant about being a practitioner sans a prefix like being a feminist artist. A socially conscious individual that she is, as amply reflected in her gestures going beyond canvas, she has actively participated in causes like the launch of a recent charity show to support the India Foundation for the Arts (IFA) that encourages multiple means and methods of cultural enquiries. The processes of learning, both collective and personal hold value in it, a thought that she holds dear to her heart and one which drives her own personal politics as an artist, she concludes.