Poignant tryst with destiny
B. PADMA REDDY
The exhibition of Frida's works reflected the pathos of a pained woman.
PAINTED PATHOS Frida Kahlo (below) with her work..
Just a few years ago the talent, work and life of Frida Kahlo had a limited audience. The 2002 Oscar winning film Frida and Hayden Herrera's biography also titled Frida which is the basis of the film were instrumental in introducing the artist to a worldwide audience, elevating Frida to an iconic status touching a chord with various categories of people. Symbol of the rich Mexican heritage, the life of Frida Kahlo is enshrined in popular imagery for her bohemian lifestyle, her sexual adventures, her exotic beauty - complete with native Mexican attires and the poignancy in her life. The persona has been so attractive that it has threatened to overshadow her work and creativity. Refuting this, and bringing for public viewing -a collection of 80 works have been showcased as a monographic exhibition at the famous Tate Modern Art Gallery in London. The massive show of drawings, watercolours, oils, including self portraits, portraits, and other compositions that occupies 11 rooms and spreads across one whole level of the gallery is on display this year from June 9 to October 9, attracting viewers from all parts of the world. It's a Frida Season with large Frida posters adorning the gallery. The unique show is equipped with facilities like the audio guide, guided tours, booklets, bookshops full of Frida material and a variety of events like talks, study days, workshops, poetry reading, film shows symposiums and other events.
The crowded lounges and corridors of the spacious Tate gallery was brimming with enthusiastic visitors despite an entry fee of 10 pounds being fixed for the show. The exhibition showcases a gamut of works - rare and popular from the days Frida started painting in 1925 to her much matured and commanding oil works like some of her very popular self -portraits. The prime aspect that refutes the technical immaturity in the earliest of Frida's works and her gumption to depict the feelings devoid of any coyness or pseudo identification. The strength being her uncanny ability to translate her pain, miseries, emotions, cultural, political and sexual concerns evolving a personal visual language akin to her personal self of a fearless, sensitive and articulate person. So much so, that a still life transforms into a parable of self with subtle eroticism or a symbol of national pride. Born on July 6, 1907, Frida began her tryst with painting by lying in the bed as a victim of a terrible accident that broke her spine at three places and fractured her right leg, collar bone, ribs and pelvis. Battling with these injuries and a gradual deterioration of her body that had immense impact on her psyche, she made about 200 paintings. The exhibition is like an open dairy chronicling not only the biographical details of her remarkable life but provides an insight into the poignant feelings of a woman ridden with pain, physical and emotional; the desire to be loved by her husband who is a celebrated artist but prone to womanising. And her pangs at being deprived of motherhood. .
A self- taught artist Frida was well read, politically conscious and an extremely intelligent person with rare sensibilities to incorporate her knowledge of various cultures, spirituality; her fascination with death and the fragility of her own body into the paintings.
The protagonist in a major part of her work, Frida represents her vision and concerns creating a personal allegory replete with symbolism. While some of her self-portraits works like My Grandparents, Parents and I, where she chooses to appear in regional Mexican attires and elaborate hairstyles, establish her attachment to Mexican Heritage, paintings like Self portrait on the border line, My dress hangs there Pancho villa and Adelita she hails Mexico and its revolution making a nationalist statement.
The trauma caused by the two accidents which not only crippled Frida's body, but also her marriage to artist Diego Rivera is clearly manifested in the paintings. Ironically these two accidents shaped and evolved Frida's life as an artist.
Portraits of the little deer pierced with arrows (bearing the artist's head), My birth, Thinking of death, My nurse and I, Henry Ford Hospital just a few nips The two nudes in forest', The mask,' The broken column (made while she was forced to wear a steel corset and was in constant pain) and the famous Two Fridas are just a part of the artist's melancholic imagery touching a raw nerve.
During the last decade of her life, the slump in Frida's physical and psychological health further determined her work and the exhibition wrapped up with several paintings like the extraordinarily detailed Moses, The love embrace of the universe and a self portrait' with Dr. Farill focussed on her interest in spirituality.
On July 13 1954, Frida Kahlo died with a last entry in her dairy with the words "I hope the exit is joyful and I hope never to come back;" yet she haunts us with her sorrow filled metaphors, her teardrops, open wounds, skeletons, traces of blood, violence, wry humour and experiments with surrealism. Frida's art is all consuming making us a part of all her pain and torment.
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