Rekha Rodwittiya was born in Bangalore in 1958. She studied painting at
the Faculty of Fine Arts, Baroda (B.A. fine 1981), and at the Royal College of Art, London
(MA 1984, on the Inlaks Scholarship). She held her first solo show in 1982 in Baroda, and
has subsequently held nineteen solo shows in New Delhi, Bombay, Madras, Stockholm,
Bangalore and Calcutta. Her work has been included in several group exhibitions in India
and internationally, including the VI International Triennial, New Delhi (1986), India in
Switzerland: Six Young Contemporaries, Geneva (1 987), Dialogues of Peace, Geneva to
celebrate the 50th anniversary of the United Nations, Geneva (1 955), and Inside Out:
Women Artists of India, touring exhibition in the UK (1995-96).
She has traveled widely and-lectured on contemporary Indian art of
several fellowships and artist residencies in Sweden, France, the United States, and the
U.K. She has also written on contemporary art and has curated two exhibitions of young
Her early years at the Faculty of Fine Arts, Baroda laid the foundations
of what now stands as a politically alert feminist practice of painting. Belonging to a
generation which started operating on the ground prepared by the narrative artists of the
previous generation, Rodwittiya generation sought to plough fresh fields across it. She
found herself at odds with the male chauvinism of her contemporaries in the Indian radical
painters and sculptors Association, which did not allow for any gendered redefinition of
art practice. This was if anything, a confirmation for her of her resolve to seek a way of
painting that functioned with clearly articulated feminist political intentions.
The representation of the female figure has been a paramount concern for
her, even as it has been significant for several feminist artists. Rodwittiya has been
consistently working vnththe problem of representing the female form in a way that does
not allow voyeuristic participation from the onlooker. Female figures in her work from the
1980s were often tortured and broken, strewn about in a hostile space, sometimes that of
the convoluted, claustrophobic interior. Through the late 1980s and into the early 1990s,
her paintings often had the appearance of a shadow play populated by their human and
animal protagonists in compositions that aggressively pitched figures out of the picture
plane, almost demanding participation from the audience. A narrative subtext with
concealed references almost always underlies these works.
Recent years have seen Rodwittiya exploring archetypal figuration of the
female form in a celebratory mode. The disappearance of the male figure from her work is
not so much a measure of exclusion as it is a positive assertion monumentalized figure of
the female protagonist. Very often, this monumental figure is presented within a domestic,
intimate situation, surrounded by objects that the artist uses for their metaphoric
potential. Bathed in radiant red, these recent works at other times present the
protagonist as historical witness, as an entity that participates in, observes and thus
comments on situations in the contemporary environment.
Rekha Rodwittiya lives and works in Baroda.
Small openings give way to large spaces.
Acrylic & Oil on Canvas
72" x 48"
The Wick maker
Acrylic & Oil on Canvas
72" x 48"