Narrative: Art Practice

Every now and then like other artists I question what I am doing, why I do it and why I do it the way I do.

Do you tell stories? Yes but not in the traditional sense.

What do mean by that? Traditionally, stories when they are part of an artwork are inspirational. They create aspirations in the beholder. They describe something that the beholder has only imagined … in the sense, the artwork replaces ignorance with something concrete.

So the work is not inspirational? I am more involved in the process of creation than the outcome. The starting point is often sketch or color or word. Inquiry and exploration involves extensive research and sketches. As I proceed through inquiry, some semblances of creations appear in my drawings and note. And when I am ready with generally focused ideas or sketch, I pick my materials and set to create the piece or pieces.

March of the Virgins, Chador: Unveiling Myths, 2016
In an archaic society, a man’s biggest burden is managing his “herd” of women. The promise of virgins with self-healing hymens cannot be outshone. Without the headache of protecting the chastity of his wife or sister, a man lives stress-free in this life and the next.
Consequently, a woman’s suicide is respectable if committed to honor her husband. Her death compensates for his failure on the battleground.

So when do you write the narrative? As you may noticed, the narrative is literally the entire group of work I am engaged in producing. It is my art practice. The processes of inquiry, inclusion, exclusion, shaping, coloring, grounding etc. form my narrative. When you see my work, I want you to see more than what is presented on a sheet of paper or board. I want you to partake of the narrative. The text accompanying the pieces are very part of the narrative or process. It gets produced, if required, as part of the process. They are not descriptions nor are they clues to understanding the visual. The text and the visual go together.

Have you always worked like this? Not until I got conscious of what I was doing. After I wrote text for a few of the paintings from Chador: Unveiling Myths, I realized that each piece was incomplete without the other. The visual does not illustrate the text in the same way that the text does not describe the visual. Together they are whole even if individually each is whole too.

What role do folklore and mythologies play in your work? At the moment, I am utterly fascinated by the human capacity to create and transmit stories of these bigger than life personae. And as I explored them in light of the Chador, an extremely strong thread held them all together. Patriarchy. Although the definition of the term does not include the restrictions or freedoms it puts on both women and men, they are there.

So do you believe in patriarchy? I don’t understand how knowing what I believe in makes a difference. I believe it exists. It’s not a religion. 
Today, there are uprisings all over the world — division ism is being exercised by everyone. Tolerance is by definition a form of intolerance. Understanding oneself and the other leads to acceptance and even respect. I may not like or approve of what you do but as long as you do not restrict or pose a threat to me, I must accept you as you are.

This is where the mythologies, folklore and religion comes. Many of these stories have withstood time and have even changed with time. If we forget them as we focus on the current and now, we will find that nothing makes sense. Our language, art and culture has a history. We must accept the past before attempting to change it. The twentieth century saw changes in our social fabric because of the many centuries that preceded it.

Hypergamy, Chador: Unveiling Myths, 2016
Closed societies fear an exodus of women marrying upwards or outwards will cripple them. The Chador is a control mechanism meant to prevent such disasters.
When covered and sheltered, a woman is unlikely to draw the attention of the outside. Nor is she likely to demand her own choice.
As more women honour the individual freedoms of modern society, more honour killings are witnessed globally. Sadly, the sword cuts both ways, devastating both women and society.

Why the Chador? Many traditional women in India wear Western clothes and then put on the bindi. They are not doing it as style or statement, but they do it to complete their person. Of course that is fast fading as awareness that the bindi does not complete them. It is simply a vestige of patriarchy which in its true form, is an ornament.

When I looked at the bindi and the hijab, I saw a very different movement happening. More and more women and girls have begun bedecking their head with a hijab. Modesty has become political. Much like the bindi and its current fashionable forms, the hijab has transformed into an ornament, but a political one.

The chador seems to be the new bindi including its backlash in the West. Is it really? That was my impetus to deconstruct the Chador.