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Is it easy for a woman to be an artist in our society?

Updated: Mar 23, 2022

Your correspondent met an artist of Romartika recently. We shall not disclose the identity of the artist for reasons that will be clear once you finish reading this article. She narrated the harrowing experience she endured and still endures just because of her being true to her art.

She is young and married. She has a baby boy. She is in the medical profession and is reasonably successful as a practitioner. And she is a charming personality.

But the trouble since beginning that haunted her was her unbridled passion for painting. It was a problem because everyone in her parental home considered painting to be a wasteful act of destroying time and energy.

But still, it was alright, as long as it served the purpose of beautification. But, the young artist did not see painting as a medium to decorate walls. She took it for a channel to express the mystery of her subconscious. Often such expressions did not conform the orthodox and traditional outlooks of her immediate family members. Her artworks, at times, looked violent or implied vague profiles of nude human figures.

When the family discovered her paintings, they were aghast. Many paintings were torn apart and destroyed. She had to promise never to repeat such shameful act of painting again. And for some time she tried to suppress the inviolable call for taking up the brush. But eventually, the inner calling won over her fear of being humiliated. She resumed painting, but this time, she adopted a different way. As soon as she finished painting a canvas, she wiped it off with white paint so that nobody could find out what she had painted.

'I preferred erasing my own painting instead of someone else tearing it off.' Said she.

After marriage, her husband and in laws were no exception. They too toed the same line as the elders in the parental home.

'Why do you have to paint such nasty stuff? Why can't you paint a nice flower or some fruits or perhaps a tree?' Said her husband scornfully.

This time, again, she adopted the stealthy way of sticking to her passion. By now she had her own clinic. And she began to stay in the clinic for longer hours so that she could paint in secret. Once the staff was gone she would pull her canvas and paints out. Her rendezvous with art would begin in blinding passion.

One day, the question came up naturally. 'What do you do in the clinic for such a long time?'

She tried to dismiss the suspicion. But eventually, her painting material was discovered by her husband from the cupboards of the clinic.

'You are painting in the evening! How dare! Haven't we made it clear to you that you are not to paint? Why can't you be a normal person beyond dispute? Why are you hell bent on spoiling the respect and image of the family in the community? What will your son think of you when he grows up? He will see all these dirty images painted by you.'

She, once again, asked for pardon and promised never to paint again.

But art is a jealous lover. Art does not share the loved one. Art takes it all.

She got back to her canvas once again. This time she painted late in the evening on the pretext of official duty from the hospital. But the inevitable happened soon. Her husband came looking for her one evening. Even if she kept the door locked from inside, she forgot that the inside of the clinic was partially visible from outside through the glass wall.

She had no excuse left. Number of canvases were drying. Some were kept leaning against the walls.

Her husband saw everything and grew cold in disappointment and anger. She accompanied him home. The following days turned extremely hostile for the artist.

In the mean time, Romartika had already displayed her artworks in the online gallery. She had insisted on a pseudo name. During this turmoil, our artist told her husband, 'See, this online gallery has accepted my works because those are good. See...'

Her husband scanned through the entire platform and then while scrolling through the artworks in display, he grew perpetually puzzled. 'Do you mean that so many other women are also painting like this?'

'Yes. Indeed. They are women.' She confirmed nervously.

'And they are from India?'

'Yes they are.' She assured.

'You mean, the gallery admires your paintings?' He asked again in disbelief.

'They do. That is why they display my works.'

Since that day, her husband began to relent a bit. In the mean time, her paintings began to be displayed in various important institutions. People from the western world bought her artworks.

Her husband said, 'They like your paintings it seems. They pay for it! I can't believe.'

When your correspondent was listening to her story, he was growing angry by every passing minute. How could a creative soul be strangled this way? It is as good as attempt to murder. There is no point in taking care of stomach, muscles, heart or lungs while the soul is crushed with a sledgehammer of morbidity.

But yes. This gifted artist is probably not the only exception in this world. We are aware of many others for whom pursuing art is an uphill task. And perhaps the very oppression lends a deeply mysterious aura to their creation.

It is true that being creative has a price. But women pay much higher a price than men do, for being original and sincere in their expression in this world.

We in Romartika, have taken a resolve that we shall keep displaying true artworks irrespective of the gender of the artist. So called tradition and protocol are pointless chains in our view. We do not care if an artwork has nudity or sex. It should be sincere, honest and radically new! That's it.

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