In an exhibition titled SOMA, world-renowned artist and sculptor Ravinder Reddy exhibits his extensive collection of nude sculptures crafted over several years.
Soma, meaning ‘body’ in Greek and ‘nectar’ in Sanskrit, is a discursive blend of value and affect, with Eastern and Western connotations resounding in both Reddy’s ideological and technical approach to the nude sculpture. Revering the female figure as a site of vitality, beauty and power, Reddy sets out to dismantle Victorian ideals – prevailing over the Indian mind-set long after the struggle for Independence – that dictate definitions of femininity and how the female form must be perceived and represented, namely under the protective garb of modesty. Famous for his gilded female heads that take inspiration from ancient temple idolizations while channeling the bold spirit of the contemporary woman, in this exhibition Reddy turns to the undraped body with a similar intent, challenging interpretive depictions of women by celebrating their agency as well as their intimacy. In doing so he also undertakes an intricate exploration of the body, which for decades has not been considered important or appropriate as a subject of study in the Indian cultural context. Conventionally the nude form has been reserved for idol worship or mythological depiction, cutting the ‘figure’ off from an evolving zeitgeist and thus decapitating its true dynamism as a cradle of growth and meaning.
Reddy’s dalliance with the nude form began in 1979, and SOMA includes his consistent and controversial portrayals from the eighties up to the present, giving viewers the opportunity to track the artist’s developing oeuvre in response to ever- changing climes and contexts over the years.