Saturday, April 13, 2024
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Miles Ahead… And More to Travel

By Dr Sushma Yadav

Dr. Sushma Yadav’s solo exhibition of etchings is a pictorial journey of a woman artist as she traverses emotional and physical realms, between the crowds and the self, with each milestone, each etching, evocatively rife with artistic achievement and telling the story of humanity through the imaginative lens of a woman.
Dr. Sushma Yadav is a highly accomplished printmaker. The eminent, veteran printmaker Anupam Sud has been her mentor and guide under whose tutelage Dr. Sushma Yadav has learnt the finer aspects of printmaking and honed her skills. It is therefore not surprising that Dr. Sushma’s etchings display a remarkable level of sophistication and a strong conceptual grasp of both technique and subject. The arduous and extremely meticulous technique of printmaking and etching that Dr. Sushma specialises in, has required tremendous dedication and sustained efforts over a number of years working in her studio. Having completed a stupendous body of work at this young age excelling in artistic innovation and skill, Dr. Sushma Yadav is at an extremely exciting juncture in the Indian printmaking scape today.

Dr. Sushma Yadav’s detailed and minute almost mathematical preplanning delicately synergises with creative, intuitive genius. The balancing and symmetry of light and dark, the highlights, and the textures, all come together to make a beautiful poetry in black and white. The idea of composition, the reverse symmetry, lines, shadow, and depth are woven in a symphony of lines and shadows. In the words of the artist Sushma Yadav, “Etching is a black and white medium and I saw everything in two parts so much so that I dream also in two tones!”
One of the most distinctive and definitive attributes of the artist are her big etching works - working on two plates and three plates together which involves continually working on the plates together for extended periods of time so as to maintain tonal and visual agreement.

Dr. Sushma Yadav enlivens and illuminates the world with her artist’s eyes. The set of prints depicting journey, metonymically captures the journey of life itself as portrayed in the sheer movement, the getting on, and the waiting that characterises life. They are at one level symptomatic of the journey of life and at a more obvious and literal level of representation they are brilliant satiric as well as real insights into the ethos of travel and urbanity.

Dr. Sushma Yadav’s etchings capture a variety of subjects the world of pain and suffering, angst, grief, contemplation. On the other hand, the very medium of print also lends itself to graphic commentary, a ludic play with reality as well as a starkness of vision in the stylised interplay of light and darkness, of black and white. Dr. Sushma Yadav’s etchings exemplify this variety and reach.

The etchings on display in this show hearken back as well as look forward to universal human emotions. These emotions are then intermixed and interweaved with diverse people. The intermingling of races and groups point towards an underlying commonality of human experience so very important to envision today in a world that is riven by divisions and inequalities.

Dr. Sushma Yadav’s etchings also creatively express human relationships, the oscillations between love and ego, between hope and grief, between women as temptresses and women in their daily household tasks and finally the starkness of women inmates as they stare with blank eyes devoid of hope or joy. Dr. Sushma Yadav’s prints elaborate a breath-taking array of a woman’s world. Sushma Yadav in many of her prints depicts the kitchen scenes and scenes of partaking of food. Also significant is the coexistence of a buffet or a meal and also simultaneously a look at the kitchen where the meal is prepared. Or the act of dressing in finery as in the remarkably intricate and evocative tryptic “Let me Dressup for Mine” also has a counterpoint in the etchings which look behind the scenes to areas of washing clothes and their drying on clotheslines. These then become important signifiers of the interposition of the private realms (where women are relegated) into the public domain. Significant also is the easy assurance with which the lingerie of women is displayed as hanging on the clotheslines. The etchings portraying women’s work behind the scenes are a strong statement of a reality that exists that is oft forgotten in worldly engagements. Moreover, a foregrounding of the hidden and the private female undergarments hitherto associated with shame is reversed as they become a part of the sacredness as the title of this set of artworks “Sacred Story” triumphantly proclaims.

The prints stand apart and miles ahead in their sheer number and size, a feat arguably not yet accomplished in India, and also by the way they explore universal emotions and relationships with an unremitting focus on women in various aspects as a temptress, as a mother, and as an artist - ultimately projecting and unlayering the essential humanity that all races, genders, and categories share. That this essential humanity is conveyed through a crowd that has a majority of women rather than men is an invitation to see womankind too as depictive of the masses and not just mankind - a correction to the man-made language and ethos so needed in the male-dominated culture. The simultaneous experience of sensory delight as well as deep contemplation is what sets this artist printmaker apart from the rest making this set of etchings a visual feast as well as an emotional, intellectual, and gendered expression par excellence.

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