The stylised women in the paintings have actually emerged from Revati’s own experiences and her interactions with other women.
An ongoing exhibition in the city paints the inner and outer lives of women, encouraging us to take a closer look at prevailing biases and how they impact them.
In one of Revati Gangal’s paintings, a girl stands inside a hot air balloon, suspended mid-air. Above her, the billowing balloon holds an image of a girl enjoying a tranquil afternoon, while below the balloon lie bountiful fields. As the solitary figure clutches the ropes of the balloon, the viewer wonders whether the painting depicts a young girl’s flight of fancy, a cherished memory or a deep-seated desire. Almost all the paintings in Interwoven Odysseys, Revati’s ongoing exhibition at the Nehru Centre Art Gallery, are as evocative as this one. Brimming with symbols and dreamlike sequences, these 20 surreal paintings, which were created in the span of two years, seem to give the onlooker a peek into the lives, both inner and outer, of three women, each belonging to a different age group.
Revati, who has displayed her work in solo, duet and group shows in multiple cities like Dubai, London, Paris, Brussels, Oman, Bangalore among others, reveals that the exhibition is based on the theme of the narrative of three women, with the narrative progressing from one painting to the next. All three women have unique personalities and depict different phases in a woman’s life. The young girl is free-spirited, ambitious and driven by her goals, while the woman in her 30s is melancholic, lonely and desirous of a companion. She turns to nature to find solace and a bird becomes her constant companion. Then, there is the woman in her 40s, who is the picture of self-acceptance and contentment. She perfectly balances her professional and personal life and is satisfied with what she has culled out of life. These women march on their individual journeys, but sometimes, their paths intertwine and these nexuses become the seat of powerful moments of discovery and learning.
The stylised women in the paintings have actually emerged from Revati’s own experiences and her interactions with other women. Having moved around a lot, first from Mumbai to Dubai after her marriage, then to Bengaluru, back to Mumbai and now, Pune, the artist reveals how frequent relocation impacted her as a woman and how these very personal moments now colour the canvasses in the exhibition. “The culture, geography and interactions of each city affected me differently in different phases of my life. The characters in the paintings have been born out of my own feelings and emotions, so this series is a self-exploratory journey, a reflection of myself,” she says. But the series also stems from Revati’s realisation that her personal was universal in many instances. The artist says, “A lot of women around me were experiencing the same feelings and emotions, because, they too were weighed down by the same kind of expectations that family and the society dumps on women. No matter your background or your profession, women have to battle physical and emotional hardships because they are expected to constantly live up to expectations. They also experience change due to pregnancy and marriage, which men never encounter because their lives are linear.”
Glimpses of these experiences and emotions can be found in Interwoven Odysseys, sometimes locked in symbols, in expressions or in the colour scheme of the painting. While one-half of the paintings are more realistic and relatable, the other half is submerged in surreal imagery and symbols – clues the viewer is invited to decode. But Revati says that she is more than happy to share the artist’s perspective if any visitor so desires. “It’s always a mix of the viewer’s perception and the artist’s imagination. Both bring meaning to a painting,” opines the artist. Though the exhibition explores women-centric themes, and Revati says that it will leave women feeling both, understood and empowered, the response from men has been great as well. “Many male visitors have told me that this series has helped them understand the women in their lives better, and for an artist, this is the best compliment,” she concludes. Ongoing till May 13, at the Nehru Centre Art Gallery, Worli