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Abused for painting nudes, Chennai-based artist firm on continuing her art

A young mother lies on a pink mattress while a baby suckles at her breast. A tall dusky woman poses naked, her head resting on her arms raised behind her. In another nude painting, a woman runs a brush through her thick brown hair, looking sideways, absentmindedly.

Nude art is a tradition well appreciated in Western countries, yet it remains controversial and is often frowned upon in India. Thirty-two-year-old self-taught artist Ramya Sadasivam’s oil on canvas art hopes to change all that.

“I was in fact drawn into becoming an artist mainly because of nude art. I have received a lot of negative feedback, and I know people here do not understand nude art for what it is. I want to educate them, even if it is in my own small way,” begins Ramya.

For this, Ramya has been posting works by renowned artists like Steven Assael, Vladimir Volegov, Suchitra Bhosle, Prafull Sawant and others on her Facebook account to expose and educate people on different works of art.

Yet, Ramya has had to brave through abusive language aimed to belittle her and her work. “I know I am just a budding artist and I know it might take at least 15 years to perfect my art. But some of the negative comments I receive are very crass. In our society, nude works are always considered controversial. Some think I do this to gain attention,” shares Ramya.

“One day I received a call from someone asking the “rate” for the woman in the painting I had done. These are just some of the abuses I go through on a regular basis for wanting to practise my art,” she laments. Ramya also shares with us that to protect her model’s identity she always paints them with a different face. “My models should feel safe and I make this little alteration to my works so that their privacy is protected.”

But these restrictions and frustrations Ramya has turned into a driving force. “It makes me want to touch upon all that is considered controversial. It makes me want to keep perfecting my art,” she emphasises.

As a cultural artist, Ramya tells us that she gets to explore and experience all kinds of emotions through art. “There’s sincerity in all kinds of feelings – between mother and child, between human and dog, between lovers. My intention is to capture sincerity between two individuals,” she explains.

Now resolute upon exploring all the feelings that are considered “forbidden”, Ramya tells us that she will also focus on expressing love between LGBTQ individuals. “This is something that has not been explored. The LGBTQ community has not been given a proper identity in our society. I want to capture and register their love as well,” she tells us.

Through her work, Ramya is also making a silent rebellion about body image and racism based on skin tone. “It is natural for an Indian woman to have a broader pelvic and butt area and this anatomy has to be naturalised. Size zero, as a concept, is not natural. Similarly, I have also come to understand that the oil painting technique that was introduced in India only one century ago is more suited for paler skin. I find it even more challenging to bring out the multitude of dusky shades characteristic of Indian skin. These are things that keep me going,” she tells us.

Ramya was not always an artist. An MBA graduate, she tells us that she began practising art full-time only in 2011. The initial days though were riddled with doubts and opposition from family. “When I first began painting nudes, my younger brother was still in his teens. One day when he had his friends over, even though the boys took it lightly, I could see that it troubled my family. Only after my first exhibition in 2014 at Lalit Kala Akademi, Chennai did my parents start to understand my work,” says Ramya.

Since then her father and her brother have been of great support and encouragement for Ramya. “I owe it to both of them. My father has helped me sell my work. Today, I can proudly say my work has sold not through any gallery but solely through my website. I have created my own network and contacts in this field,” she says.

Her father G Sadasivam, however, tells us that more than looking at Ramya as his daughter, he considers her to be an achiever. “A talented person coming up in life is a difficult feat. It is therefore our first responsibility to help and support them in every way we can. I would do this not just for my daughter but for everyone with talent. When athlete Gomathi Marimuthu won gold recently, I offered her my congratulations. Humanity is all about loving, and I also firmly believe that everyone has the right to express their own opinions.”

Ramya attributes two major awards, the Camlin National Award Nomination in 2016 and the Tamil Nadu Tourism State Level Painting Nomination in 2017, as validation for her art. Ramya has also received the Tamil Nadu Best Artist award in 2016 and the Chennai City Award Best Artist in 2017 as part of the Prafulla Dahanukar Foundation’s Kalanand Art contests.

Ramya’s work is available for sale here.

Source: The News Minute