A postgraduate in textile designing from the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, Shaila Nambiar redefines the thin line that separates beauty and a woman’s invisible, latent strength in her ongoing show at Alliance Française. The exhibited sculptures, collage works and drawings have together been titled as Disruptive Self.
In all of her works, Shaila delves deep into the realms of self-identity and the core of a woman’s existence. And in doing so, she creates intensely embedded paradigms that define womanhood. Through her creations, the artist also makes an attempt to fathom how much of it is by choice and how much stems from habit and subtle imposition. Offering a mature outlook, Shaila’s works mentions the persistent gender discrimination in our society where women are expected to be perfect in terms of physical attributes as well as in many other aspects — along with the hurdles and struggles that she faces in relationships, health and finances, she is expected to be faultless bodily and aesthetically.
However, it is difficult to separate womanhood from beauty and vice versa — left to themselves, all women aspire to look the most beautiful version of themselves. To this Shaila replies, “That’s true, we all want to look good but women should be given a choice to define what is beautiful for them and we also need to come out of conventional and imposed standards of beauty.”
The most notable thing about her art is the kind of materials used to express the concept; the articles have been picked up from the daily cosmetic paraphernalia that exist in every woman’s life. Instantly noteworthy are huge, larger than life safety pins which are twisted and twirled into interesting allegorical forms with smaller safety pins, bobby pins and hair brushes becoming the metaphorical elements for her dialogue. A gigantic hair brush holds thick, pinkish strands of hair which fall in rhythmic waves. The brush, perhaps, symbolises every woman’s nightmare as the lock of hair caught in the brush (as shown in the artwork) always disheartens them greatly. Overall, the deformed, distorted objects try their best to break away from the conventional aesthetic requirements of art, and of course, from the expectations from women.