Indo-Canadian artist Nimisha Bhanot paints empowering portraits of “Bad-Ass Indian Pin-Ups”. Bursting with symbolism and traditional South Asian motifs , the work is simultaneously provocative and playful, depicting her subjects as strong, sexually liberated women with agency and intellect.
As Nimisha explains in her artist statement:
“Over the years my work has continued to challenge the identity and societal role of South Asian women and femmes through a bicultural feminist lens. Through photo-based figurative paintings, I juxtapose North American and South Asian cultural and religious signifiers against one another to communicate the contradictory process of preservation and transformation in forming diasporic identities. Popular culture and digital media on the Internet inform the themes, titles and staging of my paintings to mimic how they act as a normative framework for cultural identity in diasporic individuals. I critique the art history canon and popular culture by referencing poses from iconic works which have excluded women and femmes of colour over centuries. By doing so, I am showing the viewer how I ‘colour-correct’ in an effort to see myself and other people of colour represented in art and media. Much of my work defies South Asian heteropatriarchy by presenting an indoor-outdoor dichotomy , featuring sexually liberated women and femmes who make direct eye contact with the viewer by returning the gaze. This reversal of power and dominance also mocks white male Orientalist fantasies about Asian women’s docile sexuality by presenting them as sexually confident individuals.
The aesthetic I’ve developed is an amalgamation of old and new, East and West. The brown skin of my figures is reminiscent of brushwork in European realism to question its literal absence in the canon. The handling of clothing, henna, jewelry and tattoo are more gestural and the backgrounds if not portraying my figures in private spaces, are often flat and adorned with pattern which mimic Rangoli and motif in South Asian architecture. This variety of painting techniques showcases the complex visual language which captivates my gaze and filters how I perceive my world.”