Viraha

I came across this mix media artwork recently which was (probably) discarded by the artist and was reminded of Kenneth Clark’s ideas about the nude body as a form wrapped in art. Clark writes, “The nude gains its enduring value from the fact that it reconciles several contrary states. It takes the most sensual and immediately interesting object, the human body, and puts it out of reach of time and desire; it takes the most purely rational concept of which mankind is capable, mathematical order, and makes it a delight to the senses; and it takes the vague fears of the unknown and sweetens them by showing that the gods are like men and may be worshiped for their life-giving beauty rather than their death-dealing powers.” The nude body is also a self contained and contented body for him which Mary Douglas views as a problem, as often in the nude figures (especial female) no orifices are open so as to not risk being obscene as also to curb the very freedom of self expression that it claims to offer. (The other side of the argument is also there of course where the artist becomes a mediator who allows for the voyeuristic gaze and in doing so challenges one form of freedom of self expression with another.) Interestingly, the frames are seen as providing the boundary that would contain the nude body (in art and in social life). For me, the fact that the female nude here, despite the diffident/tragic and closed off expression, comes out of the painting is an interesting way to challenge those very limits. 

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There she sits as if alive…

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Artwork © Anonymous Artist, Delhi. Photographs © Anjumon Sahin.

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