On the first day of Amrita Sher-Gil National Art Week, during a dialogue, painter Anjolie Ela Menon was asked by art commentator S Kalidas if enough girls were coming forward in the filed of art. Menon pointed at the flex board behind her, saying, “Glance at the list of 20 eminent artists, critics, writers, historians and curators participating in the art week, and 11 of them are women.”
She not only answered the question but also projected a trend which shows that visual arts have not only been accepted as mainstream career options but these have also left the canvas open for myriad feminine voices — to critique and contribute to its growing artscape.
Chandigarh-based theatre person Neelam Mansingh Chowdhry, who has been seen appreciating the work of every artist daily at the ongoing art week, says, “I believe the boundaries have resolved. Contrary to what people think, I see more and more women in certain professions. Coming to the field of art — where I come from — nowadays we get to see more woman directors, actors, artists etc. I don’t see any gender inequality in these fields. The roll call of women is quite similar to that of men.”
Who else would have thrown more light on the topic than Diwan Manna, the chairman of Lalit Kala Akademi, who has been organising art events in Chandigarh on a regular basis. “There was no game plan behind inviting more women artists than men for this event. It is simply that these women have been doing a great work.”
Taking Neelam’s viewpoint ahead, art historian Kavita Singh makes an interesting observation: “I have always felt that art is one field which has been dominated by women unlike other male-dominated areas. Women usually dominate the professions which are not very well paying.”
Installation artist Sheeba Chhachhi feels that women in the past had to struggle a lot to make space for themselves, as they were never taken seriously in a male-dominated society.
“Today, women have a platform, earlier they had to defy stereotypes,” avers Sheeba, who says that she can relate to Amrita Sher-Gil, who was ahead of her times, as an artist.
City-based sculptor Parul Dar makes a point when she says that though a lot of women study art not many take it up professionally. For Dayanita Singh, a woman who pioneered in the field of photojournalism, challenges have nothing to do with gender.
“Art has nothing to do with gender lines. Let’s rise above this and discuss other things. I am happy that most of my colleagues left me on my own and that’s what brought the real photographer out of me.”
Dayanita had studied visual communication at the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad and documentary photography at the International Center of Photography in New York. She started her career as photojournalist for international magazines and newspapers such as New York Times before moving on to portrait photography.