Asian Contemporary Women Artists
- Betti-Sue Hertz
East Asian, South Asian and South-east Asian women artists have made a unique contribution to contemporary art by incorporating culturally specific traditions drawn from sacred and secular aspects of art history and daily life—from altars to painting to domestic design—with traditional materials and new media such as video and digital imaging (see fig.). This artwork accesses the myriad of customs and languages that make up the region, with spirituality playing a larger role than in many other regions in the world. Artists often include elements in their work that display an identification with both Eastern and Western traditions and exhibit a balance between cultural differentiation and hybridity. Their explorations have often been aided by modern concepts of the female self, aided by feminist theory.
While some women work with narratives from the past, others negotiate new identities through the use of technologies such as iPods, camera videos and mini-TVs, which have taken particularly strong root in urban Asia. These polar references to the old and the new are often harnessed into a combined visual language that expresses modern life for women living in societies experiencing dramatic changes brought on by post-modernity. While gender and sexual identity have always been assumed important issues in women’s art, the blurring of boundaries in cultural roles has expanded possibilities for women artists even where general societal discrimination persists. The feminism that emerged in the USA and Europe in the 1970s has penetrated academic and artistic circles throughout Asia in an uneven pattern of influence. (The earliest generation of Western feminist art began with an exploration of the female body in relationship to societal norms.) Serious consideration, if not complete acceptance, of these new perspectives introduced Asian women to new conceptual and political frameworks, which were often overlaid onto such established images as female deities, ritual practices and strong role models from recent social history. In India and other post-colonial countries, women’s rights had been included in the paradigms of modern mid-20th century independence movements, laying the groundwork for regional interpretations of women’s experience....