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Khushboo Sharma

IWB Blogger

Sarah Kaushik On Subverting Gender Expectations In Her Illustrations Through Androgynous Figures

  • IWB Post
  •  September 1, 2019

“I tend to give the women in my work a multi-cultural personality because that is exactly who we are today,” says designer Sarah Kaushik. Sarah’s artwork is a riot of influences, a pastiche so unique that you are forced to not just look but raise questions.

Sarah has been working with digital montages in a two-dimensional space where she creates provocative juxtapositions to explore the concepts of feminism and power in single yet powerful frames.

If you really think about it, aren’t all our concepts of the world a result of how we are ‘taught’ to perceive things mixed with societal stereotypes? Social prejudices seep into our system from so many varying sources, so discretely that we don’t even realise how they end up affecting us. Thus, if we ever get tired of the order of things around us and try to change them, the change first needs to come from within. It is only after realising how outer influences programme us, that we can learn how to de-programme ourselves. That’s exactly the message that Sarah is trying to send across through her unique illustrations.

As she says, “These compositions are to stir, evoke, provoke, to set on fire, to catch fire and to question the issues, order and disorder, politics and patriarchy and mull over them, awakening the society, but first, our individual selves.”

Among all the social aspects that she aspires to de-programme, her biggest fight is the way women are labeled, objectified, commodified, and when all these purposes are solved, very easy marginalised in the society.

For her, all the distinctions between a man and woman, saint and sinner, proper and improper get blurred when it comes to her idea of women and that gets very well reflected in her illustrations. Thus, in her artwork you’ll find a woman, in a hijab and mini skirt, carrying it off like it’s the most natural order of things, and if you really think about it, isn’t ‘choice’ actually the most natural of the things?

Choice is not a crime! . . #srartwork #surrealismartcommunity #artofvisuals #collageclub #collageartwork #Createcommune #collagear #artfido #magicgallery #collagesociety #collagecollectiveco #fabacollagemag #art_spotlight #collageartistsoninstagram #CulturaColectiva #brutsubmission #collagecult #ig_collage #Visual_Creatorz #juxtapoz #thebigeyedcollagist #socfeature #picame #collagear #minimalism42 #thecreatorclass #enter_imagination #surreal42 #choice

196 Likes, 7 Comments – Sarah (@thebigeyed_collagist) on Instagram: “Choice is not a crime! . . #srartwork #surrealismartcommunity #artofvisuals #collageclub…”

 

In a recent chat that we had with Sarah, she talked about how her artwork is a fight against all the unsolicited labeling that women face, and how it aims to evoke multiple meanings, including “hidden desires, suppression, aggression, freedom, and liberation.”

Here are excerpts from our chat:

Is your collage work in any way directed towards doing away with the labels that are so liberally flung at women in our country each time they try to claim even an iota of the freedom which men feel absolutely entitled to? How are you working towards this end?

My work certainly rebels against the very notion of ‘labelling’ and stereotyping women, which men and women are both accustomed to practising, obliviously. My personal experiences and exposure have helped me sensitise myself to observe the heritage, culture, the stereotypes, socio-cultural aspects of the country and the community.

I eventually began constantly questioning my own beliefs of the past and contradicting them to be able to understand them better.

Are you also trying to send a message of body positivity as well?

We often tend to treat our bodies like a stranger’s with comparisons and criticism which impacts us on multiple levels, self-esteem, mental health etc. In today’s highly commercial world, we are often convinced to believe that our bodies should look and feel a certain way. I must confess I often get trapped in these ideologies too, but then realisation hits and questions form. The more confident and happy you are with your body, the more comfortable you are being you. I have come to terms with how my body is and want to take care of it, keep it healthy and I try to advocate the same in my works from time to time.

Your needs are the most important. Tend to them. . #srartwork #surrealismartcommunity #artofvisuals #collageclub #collageartwork #Createcommune @collage.ar #artfido #collagesociety #collagecollectiveco #fabacollagemag #art_spotlight #collageartistsoninstagram #CulturaColectiva #brutsubmission #collagecult #ig_collage #Visual_Creatorz #juxtapoz #thebigeyedcollagist #socfeature #picame #collagear #minimalism42 #thecreatorclass #enter_imagination #surreal42 #c_expo

189 Likes, 3 Comments – Sarah (@thebigeyed_collagist) on Instagram: “Your needs are the most important. Tend to them. . #srartwork #surrealismartcommunity #artofvisuals…”

 

Can we look at the mixing and merging of varying influences as an act of subverting how women have always been objectified in the popular culture?

That is always what my artworks are about. Objectifying women has existed in every aspect, knowingly and unknowingly. I mock prevalent patriarchal practices through my work, which unfortunately have become an integral part of our culture.

Looking at the plethora of influences that you juggle in your collage work, makes us certain that you must have a vast knowledge of culture and design. If we look at the chunk of aesthetics that inspires you, what would you say intrigues you the most?

I extensively use vintage imagery from India and beyond to create scenarios of the current times. The vintage finds are like chancing upon a rare gem in a forest – beautiful and priceless, holding stories within themselves, frozen in time and space. The colour tones of vintage images, the slight blurry-ness and grains add a lot of texture and depth to an otherwise two-dimensional graphic. The characters in my work take on lives of their own and I follow them, chancing upon varied topographies allowing a wealth of diversity of meanings.

There are so many contrasting and conflicting images juxtaposed together in your work. For instance, there is a collage in which a woman is seen wearing both a hijab and a skirt. What statement are you trying to make here?

The unexpected compositions address the boundaries between various social and cultural stigmas concerning our society, eventually hoping to achieve a tolerance for this complexity and diversity. I tend to give the women in my work a multi-cultural personality because that is exactly who we are today. We all know the women under the hijab wear the most fashionable clothing! Hijab is a skin that has been put forth by the culture, but there is a dual personality to the one wearing it, coexisting with the society. Ultimately, this image evokes multiple meanings– hidden desires, suppression, aggression, freedom, liberation, I prefer to leave it to the audience to draw meaning from the work, considering what they might relate to the most.

The ecosystem of promises. . #srartwork #surrealismartcommunity #artofvisuals #collageclub #collageartwork #Createcommune #collagear #artfido #magicgallery #collagesociety #collagecollectiveco #fabacollagemag #art_spotlight #collageartistsoninstagram #CulturaColectiva #brutsubmission #collagecult #ig_collage #thegraphicspr0ject #juxtapoz #thebigeyedcollagist #socfeature #picame #collagear #minimalism42 #thecreatorclass #surreal42 #collageguild #promise #shadow #ecosystem

158 Likes, 2 Comments – Sarah (@thebigeyed_collagist) on Instagram: “The ecosystem of promises. . #srartwork #surrealismartcommunity #artofvisuals #collageclub…”

 

Is there a political message encrypted in the intriguing mish-mash of influences in your collage work. If yes, who is this message directed towards?

My work stays away from political mish-mash and focusses on social issues and concerns. The message in my work is directed towards common people. The idea is to ingrain the message to make the change from within. In my opinion, this does not require any political agenda.

Your collage work looks like a roar of liberation, a stunning act of rebellion. The idea of women’s liberation, be it social or sexual, is still evolving across the globe and takes different shades with different cultures. What does it look like from your point of view?

The Big Eyed Collagist is not just a mere stage name, it is an indeterminable identity to contradict the gender-biased society, almost a rebellion. My figures are dressed androgynously to transcend any gender expectations and stigmas attached to a specific gender. My idea is to bridge the distinction between a man and a woman, through the way we dress/look, as a satirical, pun-intended idea of portraying the very sad, abusive state of women, all across the globe.

 

Trusting is never an easy thing to do! So, just pretend 🙃 . . #surrealartcommunity #collagecollectiveco #collageartwork #Createcommune #collagear #instacollage #surrealism #collagesociety #thecollageempire #vintage #vintagecollage #collageartistsoninstagram #CulturaColectiva #brutsubmission #ig_collage #juxtapoz #thebigeyedcollagist #socfeature #thecreatorclass #surreal42 #surrealism #collageguild #leapartment

295 Likes, 5 Comments – Sarah (@thebigeyed_collagist) on Instagram: “Trusting is never an easy thing to do! So, just pretend 🙃 . . #surrealartcommunity…”

Artwork Source: Sarah Kaushik’s Instagram 

 

 

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