T V SARNGA DHARAN NAMBIAR –
MUSCAT, march 10 –
The Sultanate is yet to witness the advent of its own version of a Paul Chelko, who deftly used the power of art as a movement to protest and neuter the overt and covert gender biases prevalent in the society, and empower women.
The Chelko Foundation’s magnificent sculpture One Woman Rising, in honour of The first, One Billion Rising at the Freedom Park in Atlanta is an unbridled celebration of women’s freedom and their bold exploration of their own identity and creative impulses.
Wielding the power of the endless possibilities of the third dimension, and possibly a fourth dimension (perceived at a metaphysical level), sculpture is capable of creating dominant social and cultural narratives.
And even sculpture has been reinvented: A sculpture was considered the embodiment of a place. In fact, it is a place, and does not merely belong to a place, as noted by Heidegger. But that was to change. Today’s modernist, abstract sculpture represents a kind of site-less-ness or an absolute loss of place that denotes what it is not, as observed by Krauss.
And, arguably, it’s the feminine element that benefited the most from this freshly unleashed creative energy.
Thus having crossed the last barrier — of space — today’s sculptor has taken the ideological battle to the final frontier, confronting the real woman as she is, and shedding pretensions and deconstructing the libidinal narratives of the male.
And, here in the Sultanate too, sculptors have succeeded in their attempt at creating truly female spaces that mock regressive traditional notions and social conditionings.
Among the avant-garde Omani sculptors, the abstract works of the likes of Ayoob al Balushi and Kholood al Shaebi, to name only two, offer refreshingly new perspectives about woman.
The feminine aspect has always both enticed and baffled men, and even women. True, they have succeeded in chiselling out the most aesthetic feminine forms. But that realistic representations led them nowhere, as the feminine, by nature, is purely abstract. The feminine simultaneously embraces and transcends all that is associated with it, making matters more complicated.
It is in this transcendental realm of the feminine that Kholood finds her creative space.
Kholood’s works are an attempt at turning the focus away from the dominant masculine language of art. She strives to articulate the female sensibility, inviting the viewer to open a candid dialogue with the unveiled female being. This she does, while allowing the woman to keep the natural enigma associated with her. What is so remarkable in Kholood’s female sculptures is the depth and centrality of the void in relation to the common idea of the feminine, which she explores with great passion.
She unravels the multi-layered identity of woman, entering deeper and deeper into realms of motherhood, passion and compassion, the perceived docility as well as the potential risk of the female pent-up energy that men are scared of.
Woman’s freedom — not just from the clichéd fairy-tale world of intimate fantasies, but from all bondages that the societies in general and male perspectives in particular have so cunningly enforced on her in one pretext or other; and finally, the freedom from oneself — is a recurring theme with strong undercurrents in Kholood’s works. Her female figures wait in anticipation to celebrate this ultimate liberation that a female can arguably aspire for, by allowing free flow of the cosmic creative energy through her being’s open and receptive channels.
Some of her creations also explore the evolution of the feminine aspect — both physiological and psychological — as represented by the linear and at times non-linear growth that transforms a nubile girl into a sort of a mature woman who is existentially anchored.