Embodying Myth

The Women
The Women I 1999 I Oil on Canvas I 110 x 79 cm I Fukuoka Asian Museum collection – Fukuoka , Japan

WAYNE AMTIZIS in Nepali Times FROM ISSUE #30 (16 FEB 2001 – 22 FEB 2001)

Known for her alluring and satirical prints, Ragini Upadhyay-Grela now displays her creative prowess with her work in oil. A single figure dominates a painterly landscape. Heavy, stable, secure and complete unto themselves, the animals she depicts contain a range of displaced symbols and forms. Against a wall-like background, or one of earth and sky, stained by numerous handprints that mark the central figures as well, Ragini asks the witness to merge with the larger form even as they identify the particular figures that are bound within. Puzzled or pleased by the integrative process at work here, one cannot but be assured by the holding power of her animals. They stand (like a stupa or a Ganesh) as an implacable presence, not a cow or a lion or a tortoise, but cow-mother, lion-mother, tortoise-mother that will not abandon her progeny or her bodily parts, though they be torn from her and scattered over the earth. These forms are peaceful, yet indomitable. There is a violence here overcome, a chaos that will not prevail, for there is no moving her figures from their rightful place at the centre of creation. Only the handprints remain as signs of the forces she submits to, the violence willed against her.

These figures (the artist suggests) reinterpret mythic embodiments of the female psyche. Ragini says regarding her paintings: “The Tortoise suggests infinite patience, which is a female quality. The Cow called Kamdhenu in mythology a symbol of great and powerful Desire, which is locked in the case of most women.” The effect on the witness is two-fold; perception and intellect are triggered by the seemingly decorative placement of individual forms; yet an emotive and intuitive rapport is effected by the major figure itself. These works, though pleasing to the mind, are best encountered with the body, by a mirroring that will not be parsed with the logic of words. While her prints speak directly of corruption and hypocrisy or playfully of desire, Ragini’s oils transcend her references with a more complete embodiment.

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