SURVEYING THE REPRESENTATION of women by artists in a single exhibition might seem a daunting task, if not impossible. Yet, this is what the exhibition “Visible/Invisible” achieves successfully. Curated by Kamini Sawhney, Arnika Ahldag, Vaishnavi Kambadur, Riya Kumar and Arshad Hakim, this magnificent display of artworks can be viewed at the recently opened (in late February 2023) Museum of Art and Photography (‘MAP’) on Kasturba Road in Bangalore (Bengaluru). The exhibition, which is displayed in most of the rooms on one floor of MAP confines itself to works created by artists, both male and female, from the Indian subcontinent and its diaspora. However, this did not hinder the curators’ aim of demonstrating the female in art over the centuries.
The 130 artworks on show range in date of creation from the 10th century AD to the present. MAP’s website reveals that the various artworks:
“… are interwoven into four key sections based on narratives and counter-narratives: Goddess and Mortal, Sexuality and Desire, Power and Violence, and Struggle and Resistance. Each section presents how women’s lives have been portrayed, the spaces that they occupy and challenges that women have faced in the Indian subcontinent. The themes and ideas explored in Visible/Invisible hopes to encourage audience awareness of the history and role of women and gender in art.”
And the exhibition successfully raised my awareness of the multiple ways in which the lives of women have been portrayed by artists of both genders over the centuries,
The artworks include sculptures, paintings, photographs, film posters, textiles (some created by female artists and others woven in traditional patterns by craftswomen), and prints. Almost every exhibit was a joy to behold, What was particularly interesting were examples of artworks created within the last few decades that demonstrate how Indian women artist have taken control of the way they portray women and their lives, What the viewer sees is how women see themselves, which is a contrast to what has happened in earlier times when women have often been shown in the way that men have viewed their lives.
All in all, this exciting exhibition is compelling both visually and conceptually. The curators have expressed their ideas beautifully and powerfully, but not without considerable subtlety.