The female gaze takes center stage through art – The New Indian Express
Express press service
Women – and their bodies – have long been objectified and depicted in art from a man’s point of view. In fact, English art critic John Berger devoted an entire chapter of his 1972 book Ways of Seeing to demonstrating how the male gaze works. “Men act and women appear. Men look at women. Women watch themselves being watched,” he wrote.
In an attempt to transform such representation – it has plagued literature, art and film – Yasha Shrivastava (29) creates digital illustrations that explore ideas of female sexuality and desire from a female gaze . Her Instagram account (@earthy_folk), on which Shrivastava uploads these digital works, has gradually taken the form of a micro-blog. “In a society where women are considered the second sex and have had to endure and accept cultural norms throughout history, I want to use my art to advance the female gaze,” she says.
Make a powerful statement
Shrivastava – she graduated from the College of Arts, Mandi House, and is currently pursuing her research in Madhya Pradesh – often juxtaposes her self-portraits with doodles in an effort to create a feminist statement. This fusion serves its purpose of illuminating discourses on sexuality and gender. “The body has always meant liberation for me. I identify a lot with the final piece,” she says.
The idea of self-acceptance and self-love is often a central theme in her work. Scroll through her images and you’ll find one where Shrivastava can be seen standing in a room with the door ajar. In this work, figures of five nude female subjects were added digitally by the artist. “This [juxtaposing photographs with illustrations] is an unconscious thought. It helps me to inhabit an imaginary landscape, one where everything is possible. It also explains my identity and the way I see the world as an artist.
The artist’s illustrations, often erotic, can be seen as conscious and artful attempts “to explore sexuality, empower women, and challenge taboos in the representation of sexuality.” In this sense, her work is definitely feminist but not sexist. By working on erotic art – she is inspired by Chinese and Japanese eroticism – Shrivastava strives to “manifest emotions, thoughts, feelings and self-observations outwardly”.
Immerse yourself in an indigenous philosophy
Remnants of indigenous and folk arts can be seen in Shrivastava’s work. Example: an image of the artist has been scribbled with symbolic stick figures in tribal art. A black and white color palette dominates in his works. “With the black and white scheme, I feel like I can express my thoughts better. It allows for spontaneity,” she concludes.