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Delhi art show to explore ‘the gaze’

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By Siddhi Jain

New Delhi, Jan 23 (IANSlife) Ways of Seeing, a historic exhibition by DAG focuses on one of the most contested spaces in Indian art – the gaze – featuring 150 works by female and male artists paralleling the modern art movement in India. Bringing back into focus concepts such as scopophilia or the pleasure of looking at something or someone with reference to the gazer and the gazed, the show explores the subtle distinctions in the ways the artists of both sexes create and experience art.

The male artists paint exclusively female subjects that are as far from the truth as can be but the voyeuristic intent of the male gaze is definitely more evident in their work. And it certainly appears that women paint differently, even though female Indian artists have not shied away from representing the nude body. But the difference lies in their ability to turn the body into a representation of their arguably feminist perspective. The female nude for them is thus a space for interrogation into societal malaise.

As Ashish Anand, DAG CEO and Managing Director, notes, “For the making of this exhibition, DAG looked at two aspects that define the gaze. Women artists, their examinations of their own bodies, and the territories of art they occupy would have remained incomplete without the male artists and their surveillance of the female body. It was necessary to confine the work of these artists with reference to women, suggesting a skew that does not necessarily denote their wider canvas of work, or view, but was essential to establish the confrontation between the male gaze and the female gaze as real-and evident.”

Almost equally divided into parts – The first, featuring Women Artists, begins with the unheralded but important Sunayani Devi to Devyani Krishna and Amrita Sher-Gil, featuring 22 artists in all including Mrinalini Mukherjee, B. Prabha, Madhvi Parekh, Anupam Sud, Gogi Saroj Pal, Navjot, Arpana Caur and Rekha Rodwittiya. While a number of them explore the nude body-including the male nude-the gaze is not avaricious but is intended to be part of a narrative that takes humanitarianism into account.

Women as Muse, the second part, featuring M. V. Dhurandhar, Nandalal Bose, Jamini Roy, D. P. Roy Chowdhury, George Keyt, K. H. Ara, F. N Souza, Krishen Khanna, M. F. Husain and Jogen Chowdhury among the 32 artists chosen, focuses only on these artists’ studies of women as a subject. The interesting layering and complexity of the exhibition opens up the space for conversations not just in art but in all popular culture.

The period covered in the exhibition parallels each other in both sections with artists born in the second half of the nineteenth century all the way to those born in the mid-twentieth century – India’s most exciting period in terms of art practice that saw the experimentation with subjects, genres and mediums making it ideal for understanding the differences between the male and the female gaze in both the artist and the viewer.

Featuring approximately 150 works as part of the selection, Ways of Seeing opens for public viewing on 5 February 2021 in New Delhi at DAG, The Claridges and online on the gallery website with a week-long preview followed by sale of works from February 12 through March 7.

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