An Interview with : MAITHILI BAVKAR
How Did Your Tryst With Art Begin?
MB: As a child, I enjoyed drawing and painting tremendously, and this continued throughout school. During Art school I started seeing works of Contemporary artists. I was really fascinated by the artistic interventions through which, new ways of seeing and expressing are created by the artist. Thus, my interest in contemporary art was developed. Gradually I started learning about the field of contemporary art, which I do believe is always an ongoing process of learning for an artist.
Your Works Move Beyond the Conventional Aesthetics and Incorporate Deconstructed Traditional Symbols to Express Ideas, How Do You Select These Symbols?
MB: In my practice, I attempt to subvert the normative, the traditional symbols and aesthetics are often further enforcing the supposed normative ideas upon us. In the series Black Brides, I use the colour black as an antithesis of wedding colours. Additionally, in my saree work, I use the symbol of marriage; the mangalsutra, which is a woman's burden and distort it into the shape of a vagina, attempting to question the stigma surrounding a woman’s chastity and sexuality in our society. I use materials like sari, mangalsutras and bandages, objects associated with the wedding industry and healing. Altering these objects, moving them away from traditional meanings by changing the colour and position of these objects to create new meanings which gives space for the subject’s stories.
You Work Across Various Mediums, How Do You Choose the Ideal One for Your Concepts? Is There Any Particular One That Is Most Conducive to Your Practice?
MB: As I have trained as a painter, I'm comfortable and often prefer this medium, but I’m exploring and experimenting with other mediums as well. For the bridal portrait paintings, the delicacy of ink and pen on paper worked well with the idea behind the Black Brides series.
What Are Some of The Artistic And Thought Processes That Go Into The Creation Of Your Work?
MB: My practice seeks to engage in conversations about the lived experiences of women. Using drawing, stitching and the colour black to investigate identity, specifically exploring the conditions which lead to a woman being married. Being led through life with an intrinsic urge to conform to a structural pattern, I think of the ongoing nature of conditioning and observe how one inadvertently moves in and out of boundaries.
How Has Your Work Evolved Over The Years And What Have Been Some Of The Defining Moments?
MB: After graduating from college, my works leaned towards classical realism, and I did a number of large scale works in oil on canvas. Eventually as I began working in the art field and spaces, I learnt about conceptual art in great depth and began moving away from realism. I started making small-sized works on paper as well as exploring other mediums and developed conceptual artworks that attempt to subvert and challenge the normative aesthetic.
Which Artists / Art Movements Inspire You?
MB: I have been greatly inspired by the works of Duchamp, Francis Alys as well as feminist artists like Yoko Ono, Tracy Emin and The Guerilla Girls.
What Was the Thought Behind your series Black Bride. Why have taken the form of silhouettes as a mode of expression?
MB: The bridal portraits created through this project were a response to a society deeply rooted in tradition and patriarchy. In this series, I have used black as a metaphorical space, rejecting the narratives written for a woman and to reclaim their own bodies. It is a resistance and rejection of gender roles designated for women and an attempt at a nonconformity of beauty standards like bias against dark skin. The form of the silhouette as a mode of expression conveys a dual presence and absence of the bride, as she moves from one identity to a new and assumed one.
What Is Your Vision?
MB: Through my practice I want to confront and challenge dominant systems of cultural and social normative existing in our society.
Thoughts On Feminism?
MB: I think being a feminist is a continuous process through everyday interactions with the surrounding. It is a breaking down of the deep-rooted patriarchy in society as well as identifying layers of conditioning within ourselves. While accepting that there is no single universal experience of feminism in society, it is important to make space for all voices.