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‘SHAKTI’ – Women in the Vanguard of Indian Art


For years I balked at the idea of ‘Womens’ Art’ but today I am convinced that women artists in India have carved a niche for themselves and are amongst the most talented and successful artists of this country. There has been a significant change in the attitude of the new generation of women as compared to the amateurism of our mid 20th century painters with of course a few exceptions. Today’s women are well schooled, bold, innovative and dedicated professionals. Societal and familial considerations have ceased to be barriers to achievement. I wanted to showcase some established and some emerging artists who work in a variety of genres and particularly those who have established a signature of their own by creating a new and recognizable idiom. In a hunt for excellence ‘uniqueness’ continues to be the buzzword and that has been the keystone to this relatively small collection of work.


For years the debate raged as to why women painters made no significant contribution before the 20th century. While it is true that male domination was the most obvious reason for this, it was also true that women simply lacked courage and confidence and a belief in themselves. Many women such as Frida Kahlo, Amrita Shergil, Louise Nevelson, Georgia O’Keefe achieved recognition posthumously. It is the climate that has changed. The art was there already! The question of course remains – is there such a thing as a distinct ‘woman’s view’? I agree that this is not always discernible except in blatantly obvious feminist art. The qualities of compassion and intuition, a natural feeling for colour, form and embellishment and the ability to subsume pain informs women’s art and makes it both significant and special.


The very solid achievements of the women in this show have little to do with the sensationalism of the current artmart and its manipulations. There is no denying their place in the firmament of Indian Art long after the commercial din has subsided.


Anjolie Ela Menon



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