The Future is Not My Gender is a solo exhibition of the works of Renuka Rajiv, an emerging artist, created within the last two years. The show is on at Vadehra Art Gallery till the 14th of August, 2018. Renuka studied Digital Video Production at Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology and then went on to study Printmaking at Victoria College of Arts, Melbourne.
Owing to the title of the exhibition, the artist insists on being referred to as ‘they’ instead of ‘she for the article, in order to keep the essence of the work intact even when it’s being talked about. The show consists a series of different works in different mediums making use of diverse materials. You would come across textile artworks, sculptures and a ton of monotypes. A central aesthetic pervades the entire series, one of being playful and a little childlike while at the same time being highly emotive and immensely impactful. The suggestiveness of the artworks coupled with arresting titles such as ‘Demon Days’, ‘International Society for Emotional Fugitives’ and ‘Evening Tea with Turbulence’ pushes the viewer further into thought as to what might lay behind these artworks and one might otiosely try to connect the dots. Even after speaking to Renuka, I wasn’t able to get the exact story behind each artwork but bits and traces of their thought process and that’s where the mystery lies and makes us admire and engage with the art even more. There are some parameters for good art; it should be aesthetically pleasing on the eyes and it should elicit a response in the viewer, be it overt or covert, and Renuka’s work definitely transcends these two criteria.
Their work inevitably draws from the corners of their own mind precisely their experiences, feelings, thoughts and reactions. In this case, one might say that their work is cathartic but the artist describes it as ‘turbulent, sometimes cathartic, cycle of dissatisfaction, temporarily rewarding, sometimes compulsive, also exciting for my brain’. If you take a closer look at their work, you would see hints and traces of turbulence, catharsis and compulsiveness staring right at you, exuding from the nuances in their lines and strokes. Getting an insight into the artist’s mind is a subtle yet trying process as Renuka tells me about two of their artworks, ‘With Air I’m Breathing in Bangalore, it was my bodily response to the polluted air in the city. In the work itself I wanted to depict that in a less representational way. And in one like Virus Body 2, I am referring directly to having had chicken pox at the time when I made the work.’ While they may reveal a minute part of their thought process, our partial oblivion owes to the artist’s desire to not be literal. ‘The show is a series of attempts in trying to share something of my world without making it too sensible, because that would not remain real’ Renuka testifies her desire.
While the mediums they currently explore are limited to print-making, drawing, paper mache, animation and stitching, their choice of individual materials is worthy of mention. In this exhibition, you would see sculptures made of toilet paper rolls, plastic bottles,cement, fabric thread,buttons, socks and underwear. Their ability to pick up mundane items of everyday use and transform them into sculptures resembling items of tasteful decor is impressive.
Diving a little deeper into the process and the behind the scenes effort that the artist puts in, we come to know that Renuka is strongly guided by intuition. Their process reflects the same. Like a multitude of other artists, their creative process is organic. Even though they might pre decide on a medium, it’s the flow of the work that guides them. If on a certain day, they chose to work with paper mache but a series of drawings came to them more spontaneously, they would choose to do the latter. Furthermore, in any creative work, revelations and learnings on part of the creator forge a better art practice for the future along with a widened perspective. For Renuka, they have learnt in the early stages of creating art that what they make is a small part of an extensive timeline of exciting and diverse art-making and to reject the manufactured separations between art and craft.
The Future is not my Gender is open for the public till 14th of August at Vadehra Art Gallery.
Text Supriya Jain