LT ARTicle May 2012 | Women (artists), where did we go wrong? by Saskia Fernando

I have in the past confidently stated that I am not a feminist as I was under the impression that it meant I had to start parading the streets and stop wearing lipstick. Any visitor to SF Gallery is unlikely to come across works that focus on obesity, the vulva or any subject matter that directly presents what I believe to be an imbalanced ideal of what women should represent in todays world. Two days ago, I reaffirmed by non-feminist beliefs to my most opinionated friend. What began as a discussion on feminism progressed through several caipirinhas into a heated debate on gender-based violence. Somewhere between the sugar, lime and its dizzying effect I realized that I am, always have been and most likely will remain, a feminist for the rest of my life. What changed my opinion, quite simply, was the realization that feminism is not about getting fat and being happy about it, it is about celebrating femininity, a women’s intuition, procreation and all the blessings women enjoy when they aren’t changing nappies or getting waxed.

Somewhere between Kahlo and Bourgeois women artists internationally have made their presence felt in the history of art. The male dominated art scene merely compares directly to all other male dominated industries worldwide and shares the same reasons for which women remain a minority. The issue I would like to address is not in the quantity but in the quality. I refer to the only area of my own expertise, the Sri Lankan contemporary art scene and the portfolios of the majority of women artists I have come across to-date.

We recently began work with two incredibly talented young artists Mika Tennekoon, and Nadia Haji Omar. Both these young artists in their mid-twenties represents a generational shift that we are hoping for in the masses. The strength in their work lies in the creative process they both employ to translate simple life experiences into intricate illustrations that exude humor, emotion and sophisticated abstract form.

Moving on to the three other, more established, artists we work with, their similarities are imminent. Saskia Pintelon, Anoma Wijewardene and Sujeewa Kumari have all the qualities that one would expect in artists in general; eccentricities, humor, sensitivity but also a strength that enables them to express their intuition onto canvas and show it to the world. Pintelon, Wijewardene and Kumari have exhibited their work worldwide and continue to play strong roles in our local art scene today.

Looking closely at the work of the women artists we represent, their work does not directly relate to any debates or extremes on feminism. In doing so they, in my opinion, place themselves above the rest in understanding that it’s about a bigger picture, forgive the pun.

This article is starting to sound cliché, but there doesn’t seem to be another way for me to get this message across other than to speak of the similar traits I have observed in our choice of women artists. The coquettish demeanor that makes women giggle when a policeman looks at their rear-end is the big problem here and it means finally that society makes women artists believe that their work has to be craft-based or pretty in nature, in order to represent themselves. I’m not saying they need to start painting about PMS but women, for crying out loud, tell us the truth about how you really feel!