Baroda-based artist Rekha Rodwittiya stands as a visionary in the world of Indian contemporary art. She crafts canvases that unfold like parables, inviting viewers to peel back layers of meaning. Her acrylic and oil on canvas artworks, alongside her digital prints, offer a profound reflection on gender, empowerment, the female body, and identity. Through vibrant strokes and poignant symbolism, Rodwittiya paints narratives that align with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of Gender Equality.
Rooted in her personal experiences, Rodwittiya, a self-described "feminist and a painter," infuses her artworks with a rich tapestry of feminine symbolism. Raised in a liberal environment where she was a wanted girl child in a society where having a daughter can be seen as punishment, her concerns for women's issues can be traced back to her formative years. Feminism, she asserts, is not a theoretical stance but an intrinsic part of her DNA, shaping her worldview and artistic expression. Her canvases, therefore, become autobiographical reflections of shared womanhood.
In a piece which she showed at her 2016 Sakshi Gallery exhibition titled Love Done Right can Change the World, Rodwittiya consciously centers the female figure as an endorsement of female victory. She rejects the notion that "men act and women appear," seeking instead to alter the politics of the gaze that traditionally objectifies women by showcasing them as active doers who boldly gaze at their viewers. The gazes of her subjects embody feminine qualities that are free, feisty, and fierce, owning up to their power.
Rodwittiya's artworks are rife with symbolism, as seen in another untitled piece Love Done Right can Change the World with a blue background, they can contain everything from domestic objects like scissors and kettles to recurring motifs of roses and birds. While these elements might traditionally signify domesticity, the artist redefines their context, infusing them with new personal meaning. Nothing in her images is arbitrary; each element is deliberately placed to evoke memories and encourage viewers to interpret the scenes using their lexicon of feminine empowerment.
Although she has been compared to Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, Rodwittiya distinguishes her narrative by drawing inspiration from Indian miniature art and sculptures. Her vibrant colour palette, which she humorously claims to have been born with, further sets her apart. Through her vivid canvases, she brings forth the tradition of Indian art while infusing it with her unique perspective.
In her exhibition, Rekha@Sixty: Transient Worlds of Belonging, held in 2018 also at Sakshi Gallery Mumbai, Rodwittiya explores the multifaceted ideas of womanhood, this time through her use of watercolours. The female figure, for her, symbolizes a life-giving force across centuries that connects generations after generations. Her untitled pieces still possess that unrelenting gaze that demands viewer engagement, transcending their mere appearances into a celebration of the everyday woman. Rodwittiya's art becomes a testimony to the strength and resilience inherent in women, portraying them as totemic trophies of self-victory.
Deliberately steering away from theoretical pedagogy, Rodwittiya's pieces in Rekha@Sixty: Transient Worlds of Belonging aim to evoke Shakti, the universal feminine energy in Hinduism responsible for creation and change. This is particularly true in an untitled piece where a woman’s body has had an avocado resembling fruit juxtaposed onto it. Her organs have been reduced to her heart and reproductive systems, again visually allegorized through the use of fruits and nuts, emphasizing the feminine power for creation and change.
By incorporating elements from nature and the ordinary, her paintings become a celebration of ideals through the lens of everyday life. In her belief, it is through the lives of ordinary women that one best witnesses the embodiment of any ideology.
Rekha Rodwittiya, through her canvases, becomes a storyteller of shared womanhood, weaving feminism into the very fabric of her art. Her vibrant strokes, deliberate symbolism, and unapologetic celebration of the female figure transcend the visual to embody the essence of gender equality. In a world where art often mirrors societal norms, Rodwittiya's paintings stand as vibrant testaments to the strength, resilience, and victory inherent in every woman's journey.