Gogi Saroj Pal, the iconic 20th-century contemporary artist known as the ‘first feminist artist of India,’ passed away at the age of 79 in her Delhi home on January 27. Renowned for her unique blend of tradition and modern feminism, Gogi was celebrated for reinventing Indian myths with a feminist touch across various mediums such as acrylic, oil, gouache, weaving, ceramics, and lithography.
Her artistic journey aimed to liberate women from societal shackles, challenging norms through her creations. Gogi’s ‘Kamdhenu’ breathed new life into the ‘wish-cow’ in Indian mythology, questioning the traditional portrayal of women as fulfillers of desires.
Gogi’s ‘Hath-yogini’ provided a feminist perspective on the masculine ‘Hath-yogi,’ challenging male supremacy and envisioning a world where women wielded authority similar to men.
Her famous artwork, ‘Kinnari,’ depicted a half-bird, half-woman figure desiring to fly, symbolizing defiance against the phrase ‘Kitni si hai tu’ (How small you are), often used to undermine women.
Gogi’s art featured brazen nakedness, a reflection of her anti-colonial stance, challenging societal norms imposed by British imperialists. The nudity in her art was ‘naked,’ not ‘nude,’ conveying vulnerability and honesty rather than catering to the male gaze.
Facing personal tragedy with the loss of her 18-year-old son, Gogi Saroj Pal found solace in her art, infusing deeper emotions into her creations. Despite the sadness in her nayikas’ eyes, Gogi remained resilient, sharing her hardships and struggles through her art.
Her legacy lives on through the DAG (formerly Delhi Art Gallery), which houses many of her artworks. An upcoming exhibition at DAG will showcase Gogi’s contributions to modern art, ensuring her art continues to inspire and empower generations to come.
Repurposed article originally published in the Quint