Women’s Image And Imagery
Woman’s image is as old as her association with Eve, she was first being dreamt by Adam as his counterpart; a well accepted religious doctrine. In a social context her image has always been there among all the civilizations and societies right from the Paleolithic Age, with the passage of time, which was excavated to the modern lifestyle of cyber life.
Man’s life has never been complete without woman’s image but in the way, he had wanted her to be, with some exceptions of a few sacred relationships and social bounds. Women’s image developed mainly through man’s imagery so, not to the surprise, sometime she was sited as a sacred and divine goddess or demigod under the ultimate intimacy, while sometime, contrary to that, she worn the title of witch, prostitute and the perpetual sinner.
Her portrayal traveled through different phases through history of mankind, explicating the power and intelligence in the Egyptian pyramids as Hatshepsut (c.1503-1482 BC ) and Cleopatra (c.69-30 BC ) Same dignity she enjoyed as Parvati in the South Asia to second the powerful lord Shiva. She caused two of the bloodiest battles of the human history at Trojan and Kurukshatre following the abduction of Helen and Sita; a common phenomena in two different Mythologies.
Greek and Hindu mythologies painted ‘her’ in divine colors to accompany the graceful gods while religions put ‘her’ responsible for the exile from the tranquility of paradise being tempted towards an apple or the wheat grain.
Woman has been there, breathing in Vedas, Puranas, Upanishads and Gospels, carved in and out of the solid rocks. The lusty hands of the craftsmen for all time, slipped over the curves and contours of female body whenever she was encaged in the schist, sandstone or marble or her passionate looks enriched the colours to be dragged upon a surface in search of eternity. She has been under gaze since ages which has stretched her image on psychological, as well as concrete canvass to entitle the artist’s imagery.
Other than male artists, female artists have also been among the admirer of female beauty. Frida Kahlo, Sylvia Sleige and Alice Neel fringed the gender based issues through their brush, in and after the second half of the 20th century in the West while in the East we could find names like Amrita Shergil and Zubeda Agha innovative and conceptual modern style of painting as they were also taught and skilled in the West.
In 1939, Anna Molka Ahmed, a painter from UK established the department of Fine Arts at the University of the Punjab, which later became an institute to lap countless female painters who were emerging from the newly existed country; Pakistan in 1947. Zubeda Agha was another name who introduced modern style of painting to Pakistan.
Zubeda Javed, Mussarat Hameed, Jalees Nagi, Salima Hashmi, Tanvir Rehman, few names to bridge the 3rd quarter to the last decade of 20th century art in Pakistan.
Sumera Jawad is a modern contemporary painter who was obsessed with portrait painting in the last years of the 20th century, but evolved intensely right with the beginning of the 21st.
At a resent exhibition at GCU Gallery, texture is what a female painter has expressed through, the force of imagined and perceived unsmooth passage of virtual life.
Under the title of “Women’s image and imagery” the painter Sumera Jawad has undergone the pain of discovering bitter realities buried since long ago. She has excavated with her brush, the buried history by unveiling the “image” of women through her imagery, that is why the myth, legends and literary characters of influential women are seen creeping through the scraped and scratched lines out of thick and thin layers of paint and printing ink.
The painter has dragged out the women of different ancient civilizations regardless of time and place, from the naked Indus girl to the Celtic goddesses; Sumera has put emphasis on the individuality and solidity of the most important character of the society by exposing women’s image in front of the modern contemporary women, she has portrayed by painting her own image within the frame, an inspiration, she might have absorbed because of the great French painter, Cézanne.
Sumera, known for portraits, depicting corporeal looking women, now has turned towards a genre that has revealed a centuries old record preserved within genetics. Since she is now in research, likes to explore diverse facets of women that could be seen at display in the corridors of yesteryears. The innermost theme that runs through her work is biblical concept of original sin, as apple of discord is painted on the canvas, in a very suggestive way.
We can observe a subtle contrast of lights and darks, widespread in her frames with lines; straight and round, circulating the figures dexterously. Her lines are neither crude nor free-flowing, the greats Sadequain and Chughtai were noticeable for, and hers could be named as “exhuming or excavated”. Since she was representing women’s social status chronologically, depicting her statures right from history thus chose for colors ambassador of Mesolithic and Neolithic ages along with some overwhelming metallic shades.
In other words we can say her work is an index and reflection of days of yore. Extravagant dark, rustic and black tones show the depth of buried elements, dark brown tinges vanishing in gray to blue to bronze and then back to dark again, tell the story of certain mental and emotional journey, the artist underwent during the process of demarking her imagery within an image.
Talking about composition, female body is in focus among Sumera’s frames, but not as source of pleasure as it has always been projected by male artists. She has also used curves and lines of women figure to balance her canvas but simultaneously these postures, empowered by centuries old myths including towering goddesses along with homage, paid by respective societies.
Composition of her frames is mostly clogged and tight, not letting the eye of viewer going out of the painting. She has placed her characters in a very instinctive and natural way as it was her brush to decide where to paint rather than her brain or intentions, the expressionistic approach has put an ambiguity on the faces of the figures making them clad with imagery and universality owing to unidentified looks.
One of her painting very delightfully portrays the Greek myth of Pygmalion; a legendary figure found in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Pygmalion is a sculptor who falls in love with a statue he has made. He offers the statue presents and eventually prays to Venus; the goddess of love, She takes pity on him and brings the statue to life. Venus gives the name ‘Galatea’ to this statue.
Since the painter is now into research, every frame of her work, seems depicting the bygone charecters and myths in connection with woman, and all this adds in understanding ‘womens’ image’ of ancient and contemprary era through the imagery the painter herself has gone through.
Venu of this exhibition was Minhas Art Gallary Government College Lahore, inaughurated by Dr. Shahida Manzoor who is the Coordinator, University College of Art & Design, Punjab University Lahore.