Artistic License

A new wave of young artists are drawing criticism and appreciation in equal measure for their unconventional portrayal of goddesses.

A few months ago, pop star Katy Perry drew flak when she posted a photo of goddess Kali and captioned it, “current mood”. Her fans from India were offended; felt the post was “insensitive”.

Meanwhile, many young artists from our country too are creating artwork on goddesses in the name of empowerment and feminism, which have gone viral on social media. While some say that it’s vulgar and wrong to create naked and modernised artwork of goddesses, artists say that it is a freedom of expression and that they have a right to post whatever they want.

22-year-old Indian-origin artist Samyuktha Madhu, currently based out of Brooklyn, New York, is known for posting female-centric and trippy artwork on her Instagram page. However, her artwork of goddess Kali has received a lot of flak. “Yes, I have received backlash on my depictions of Kali because people feel I am insulting Hinduism by drawing the goddess in my style. But they have the wrong impression. My art isn’t meant to degrade or insult anyone. In fact, the majority of people really love it and feel like they can actually identify with my art,” explains Samyuktha.

Samyuktha MadhuSamyuktha Madhu

Renowned artist from the city, Surya Prakash, agrees with her and says that when it comes to art, you cannot please everybody. “Art is all about freedom of speech and expression. As an artist, you cannot satisfy everybody. However, if a large number of people have a problem with your artwork, then it’s different,” he says.

Another artist whose work goes viral is Priyanka Paul, whose artwork of Kali, Egyptian deity Isis and Japanese Sun goddess Amaterasu, has been criticised but also appreciated.

Hyderabad-based artist Sravya Kothalanka’s artwork on Instagram is stunning. However, when we ask the 21-year-old why she portrays Kali the way she does, she shares, “Traditions are made by us. I portray her in a very mystical and gender fluid way. She’s a deity. She has to be bare and naked. In fact, I believe in goddess Kali and can feel her presence within me. When I understand her and her characteristics, I act like her — thoughtful, rebellious and mother-like, but I nurture my demons too. Kali helps me accept myself, with all the pain and power.”

However, some artists such as Siva Kumari from the Siri Institute of Painting in the city feel that it’s important not to lose traditional values. “Goddesses need to be respected. By doing such artwork, you are taking away the divinity from them. What is the difference between any other woman and a goddess if you portray them in such a way?” she asks.

However, it’s clear that no criticism is going to stop these young artists from expressing themselves. “It’s sad that some people are offended, but I’m not going to stop making art because I’m scared of the way people might react. I’m not really inspired by anything in particular when it comes to my art — I just want to show the world the side of the modern Indian woman that no one has ever really seen before,” concludes Samyuktha, proudly.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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