India’s Women Artists: Meet the Artist-Activist Priyanka Paul
Priyanka Paul is not your average Indian girl – Or is she? This 19–year-old talent is truly unafraid. She is an artist, poet and outspoken activist whose imagination and expression cannot be contained by the patriarchy. Through her art, she reclaims what it means to be a woman in India, both in face of traditional stereotypes as standards as well as the global sociopolitical climate.
Through her depictions of women, particularly in her series “Goddess” a set of works inspired by “Pantheon” a poem by Harnidh Kaur. She explores the aesthetic of goddesses from around the world and reimagined them as modern-day women, taking charge of their agency, expression, and divine energy. Thus, she does away with the archaic royal opulent vision of goddesses and makes them more relatable to the 21st-century woman.
Juxtaposing conventional and traditional with modern twists present today.
The modern goddesses she renders are spunky, beautiful and unashamed of their bodies. She makes sure to explore the spectrum of their skin tones and doesn’t adhere to the ‘fair and lovely’ approach to beauty. Each goddess has elements of her national heritage on her outfit in the form of jewellery or graphics. For example, the Indian Devi, Kaali wears a traditional large nose ring and a jewellery on her forehead, along with a traditional photo of Kaali Ma on her cropped T-shirt.
Greater usage of a taboo or stigmatized word serves to normalize it in language and reclaim its meaning in language. – Priyanka Paul
Priyanka’s activism and expression don’t stop at her explosive art but even takes form in the use of her language. Her Instagram account is called @Artwhoring, and when asked about it she reveals that greater usage of a taboo or stigmatized word serves to normalize it in language and reclaim its meaning in language. We find words such as ‘slut’ and ‘whore’ and many others – especially that pertaining to women are mindlessly and liberally thrown around in a derogatory fashion. Reclaiming these words to mean what women want in the contexts they see fit actually helps build a shared experience through words and the language they create.
Her written and artworks come together on the T-shirts she designs. The prints have cartoon graphics of transgender women with the caption: “Tumhare paas माँ hai? Hamare paas Stigma hai’.
Priyanka aims to draw attention to the injustice faced by the transgender community and highlight the stigma and oppression that they are met with.
She even speaks up and creates work around menstruation and normalizing it in art and in conversation with her. The artist does this by shooting a cartoon graphic of a woman with sanitary napkins in rows behind her and then captures shots of this visual between her legs whilst in the bathroom, among crushed newspaper in the trash can and finally on a stove.
She even writes and creates illustrations on concepts such as gender fluidity. She explains: “Gender and self-expression, for me, is never static. It’s always in a flux, in transition. Gender to me is like art – abstract, it’s more about self-discovery than what really conforms to societal norms.”
Akansha is an intern with SheThePeople.TV