Anuradha Upadhyay’s works investigate the changing notions of the ‘feminine’ within and outside of the discourse of feminist ideology within its socio-political milieu. Her work deals with of the duality of the human psyche and are governed by an ‘Experiential Reality’.
Having completed her B.V.A and M.V.A from the M.S. University in painting and graphic respectively; she works in multiple Medias and the ‘Body’ is an integral medium to her. It is through its exploration that her work begins to open up to various social, economic and political facets of the human psyche and its prevalent duality. It is here in these intermingling notions that one sees an exploration of the changing notions of ‘feminine’. She says, “Women and “others” have always been held under the umbrella of a cultural valuing system and patriarchy which I cannot ignore. The self-experiences of helplessness, pain and violence, allows me to become aware of gender differences in this country and the monotony of day to day life; layered in so many illusions by relation, perceptions, marriages, virtue, religion and the society.”
Anuradha’s early works were a series of self-portraits, exploring the idea of how the face looks at different instances. Through this, one sees not just an exploration of identity but also about the self within its multiple psychological facets. One also sees such an exploration through her face at a later juncture in her practice titled ‘Portrait of a Landscape’. The work was born out of experiencing the structured life pattern in Germany.
‘Woman with questions’ grapples with the issues and concerns that a woman faces, the boundaries forced on them, cultural and traditional rigidity etc. are almost act as if building a wall around them. The work borrows heavily from personal experience and it further tries to open up the idea of representation within the discourses on feminism. Another interesting work, which opens up debates on the idea of ‘feminine’, is ‘Silent Conversation’. The work talks about the notion of gaze, nurturing, nourishment, fertility and identity. At one hand, it operates within the realm of fertility associations and on the other; it refers to the idea of a nude female body being visually consumed. It is a strong reflection of the ground reality which too is so polar. One untitled photograph succinctly emphasizes this duality.
One of the interesting works is a series of 23 etching prints called ‘Book of Love’. The work revolves around love, sexuality, sexual gratification and the idea of womanhood within these contexts. The book format of the work lends a sense of intimacy to the work. This specific image comes from the mountains of Himachal where the bodies are being immersed in each other and complimenting it’s surrounding.
“When I think, it is of course about the self as a woman that very often becomes the significant character of my visuals – another me, with me. Exploring the concept of duality within and in everything, it is like playing with the reality. I always see myself dealing with conflicts and problems that mostly I understand exists in me as well in the outer world. These kinds of struggles between the false and the truth makes me believe in duality and contradictions. With this awareness of having the solution by becoming one with both the extremes and accepting it as it is. I also try to see it separately. As an artist, I am keen to respond because I feel responsible towards what surrounds me and so there are genuine concerns and efforts to express these contradictions to create at least some vocabulary through my perspective as an artist, as a person.”
Of the multiple photographs, the one, which carries the most impact, is ‘Beautiful Picture’. The work completely rejects the prevalent notions of ‘feminine’ beauty by means of subversion and abhorrence. The work is highly confrontational and charged with a rooted sensibility about gender identity and gaze.
She uses this duality to understand and interpret the changing notions of the ‘feminine’. This duality is also reflects upon the various personality traits of the self as well.
Text by Satyajit Dave, critic-in-residence, Khoj PEERS 2016