What if I enter the book of love?
To answer this question, I write about how my imagination, dreams, experiences, and self would take their forms and shapes in reality.
What if I, or any woman, seeks her own virtue and integrity; decides both, her freedom and boundaries? This gesture is what this book is about: it is a mental collection from memories, drawings, and marks of past, present, and coming time, which turn into forms identical or abstract. There is no chronology, though it can be assumed to be in an order or series.
This is a collection of a kind of memory where we find a girl becoming a woman who travels to different places of her mind: where her imagination creates what she desires, where she transforms into several forms inspired by her surroundings, where she becomes a lover of her own choice in a story of visuals, where she dreams herself to be an individual, but also a part of the universe.
The illustrations come from her personal internal discourse, and also connect to the outside, and to collective minds and perceptions. Thus, it projects both, the artist’s private fantasies and public concerns.
It is important to observe the way a woman artist narrates stories, creates visuals, and desires figures of her own understanding of gender and beauty through poetics and emotions. This is important because it predicts the time and the very characteristics of the social system of the era; it provides truthful accounts of social norms and the human psyche.
What happens when a woman, as a thinker, imagines women’s figures as an artist when she produces a woman/women protagonist/s several times in her art works? Does she necessarily think about the feminine qualities which physically and traditionally relate to women’s existence? If she does, then how
does she express and understand it? More importantly, when she enters her own mind, she finds her several identities connected to its duties, just like a scattered self in many small pieces existing inside; she visits, revisits it. It is also the reason she believes in power derived from traditions and natural abilities, but how can she identify her own power, how can she identify her own individual self among many, and how can she further achieve her own integrity and her own womanhood?
In contemporary times, it’s interesting to see women artists’ positions or interpretations of this, where they pull the sexuality of the female body away from the male gaze, or contrarily, they celebrate it as a collective of choices that essentially belong to the women themselves. It’s important to identify and understand a woman’s approach towards other women and her own sexuality. It’s necessary to understand the sensitivity and delicate details of her gestures, which are performed with certain feelings, emotions, and intentions in her expressions. Regrettably, both the major social system, and social psyche (dominated by patriarchy) lack the depth and ability to understand these nuances and even fail to accept their existence. In such social conditionings, the act of conscious self-representation allows the mind to create its own space, which enables questioning and understanding of everything from scratch. It’s only through the acceptance and establishment of a system where each individual can find their own space and freely express themselves that this balance can be gradually achieved. Expressions in which one feels empathy and love, become the strongest path and method to transform energies from one form to another.
Being both a woman and an artist, my personal approach to the subject of love comes from the depth of my existence, which I have been discovering with many directions and questions, but it’s also essential to understand how my upbringing, cultural background, and socio-political ideologies play a major role here.
The caste system in India sets different morals and rules for their women and it exists in a similar way for all castes. An indigenous, lower caste woman faces male domination from her surroundings, and suppression from higher caste ideologies too. Similarly, higher caste women are usually brought up with a strict set of rules and morals in their families. For example, until 500 BCE (as the Manusmriti says) eight years was the minimum, and twelve years the maximum marriageable age for a high-caste girl in a Hindu society. Such early marriage systems have been celebrated and worshiped as religious custom until this era. Families and believers have provided more freedom regarding age, but it still remains between 14 to 17 years as minimum and 20 years as the maximum age for girls to get married in the Northern parts of the country, from where my family and I belong and also from where my destiny has been created. If we think that the practice of child marriage has completely vanished, then it’s definitely our privilege that compels us to think so.
Arguments like these become essential parts of my self-identity. One arrives at freedoms of expression and discourses such as the book of love by taking from such beliefs, ideologies, and religious customs.
The characteristics of today’s society derive from its historical background with gradual modifications. The contradiction between individualistic identity and collective social ideology has been existing since forever, where womanhood struggles to own its individual space and identity, which we should understand as a basic human right. But we as a society are still struggling in the primary stage of understanding what our basic rights and responsibilities are, and acceptance only comes in the next level.
Further, with images, one needs to get absorbed by the visuals and the situations they provide to one’s mind, and the pleasure they bring to one’s heart as they connect universally.
Hereafter, I will let the visuals speak of their own journey.
If you have any questions regarding this piece, please write to the artist at firstname.lastname@example.org
Words and Art contributed by Anuradha Upadhyay
Edits: Hana Masood
Anuradha Upadhyay is a Painter, Printmaker and Performer. She has graduated from MS University, Baroda with a specialisation in Painting during the year 2009 to 13 and completed her master’s degree in Print Making during the year 2013 to 15. Much of the artist’s work is like a dialogue between her surroundings and herself. The objects, settlements, monuments, and issues that she encounters in real life find their way into the imaginary art world. Her work reflects the grim truths of the current society and happenings. It appears in variable combinations of art making process. In her work one can find her inclination towards Literature, Theatre, Music, Poetry and also Photography. Anuradha is known for her performances and has participated in several workshops, art-camps, residencies and group exhibitions at Baroda, Delhi, Germany, Belgium, Assam, Kerala, Goa and Tribal villages in India. The artist is currently assisting Mister Jyoti Bhatt – One of the senior Artist and Photographer based in Baroda.