Artist Rekha Rodwittiya marks 60th birthday with a retrospective solo
Rekha Rodwittiya’s artworks are iconic for their feminist symbolism and abound with clues for viewers. The pioneering artist, who calls herself “a feminist and a painter”, says the aim is to draw the viewer to explore their memories and understand themselves better. “The narratives in my works are never direct stories but are territories that hold parables through which meanings are inferred. I employ the use of metaphors, allegory, myth and legends to formulate its content,” she says.
Her latest exhibition, Rekha@Sixty: Transient Worlds of Belonging showcases mixed media works that the Baroda-based artist created over the past year. The images depict everyday life through which Rodwittiya examines the world at large. The images abound in powerful imagery of confident women, fertility symbols, nature and animals. The depiction of nature is a tribute to traditional theatre forms like Yakshagana, and folk stories. She even casts herself as a protagonist in some of the paintings.
Back in time
Even as a child, says Rodwittiya, she was aware that she held significance to the world around her, which helped her embrace a feminist existence. “The story I was told about my conception is that my mother argued for a second child, and I was conceived on a promise extracted by my father that the baby must be a girl,” she says.
Rodwittiya considers the eight years of education at art school — a BFA and MFA program at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Baroda; an MA in painting at the Royal College of Art London — to be a “boot camp” that offered a rigorous introduction into the studio practice of art and multi-disciplinary trajectories of enquiry.
“I imbibed lessons from the prevailing discourses rooted within cultural studies, gleamed insights from watching world cinema in the hot and muggy college auditorium, was transported to new spaces of discovery listening to lectures of scholars like KG Subramanayan and Karl Khandalawala.... I found the echo of my own voice in the writings of women authors — and in being exposed to regional theatre, interacting with artisans, travelling, and working as though every day was my last on earth,” she says.
Her content is culled from the everyday life of the woman, she says. “It is through the lives of the ordinary that we best witness the ideals of any ideology. From the many stories about the courage of ordinary women — both rural and urban — that have championed women’s rights in the subcontinent, I have found my strength. My work is informed by the personal politics that governs my life.”
While she turned 60 this year, Rodwittiya is excited about “living within the here and the now — along with the anticipation that tomorrow holds the possibilities of new hope”. She is also planning to work on a new series of large watercolours. “I always carry a multitude of images inside of my head. I have thousands of images that jostle within my mind waiting to be articulated,” she says.
While six decades have passed, Rodwittiya says she still feels the insistence “to hear my own voice echo to me the anthem of female empowerment”. “...When you have lived your life with more years than remain ahead of one, you recognise that human frailties remain in perpetuity, feeding cycles of violence and war as a continuum that is never ending. So it requires great determination to insist of oneself to believe in the hope of betterment for the future — a time you will not partake of, but which still demands your intervention nonetheless,” she says.
Rekha@Sixty: Transient Worlds of Belonging is on view till December 15, 2018. At Sakshi Gallery, Grants Building Apollo Bandar, Colaba.