These humorous, vibrant depictions of women’s bodies are on display at Artistry

A colorful new exhibition opened at Artistry this past weekend, by a Singapore-based ad-creative-by-day-artist-by-night. Bhavna Shivayogimath‘s The Topless Liberation Front feels like a cross between a Pop Art color palette and a Gauguin-esque figurative style, but what the series of paintings depicts is playful scenes from contemporary urban life. Five percent of the sales of the artwork will go to Seva Sadan, a female-focused non-profit organization based in India.

Here we speak to Bhavna about how she finds time for her art, her own experiences as a woman in Singapore and the story behind some of her strangest images.

, These humorous, vibrant depictions of women’s bodies are on display at Artistry
Bhavna Shivayogimath 


Tell us about the name that you’ve chosen for the exhibition.

I wanted something that would imply that all the women depicted in the series are part of a gang or are guerrillas, but also capture the humor. So I first came up with The Topless Femme Club, but that didn’t feel badass enough. Then my husband suggested The Topless Liberation Front and I thought that was pretty funny, so I went with it.

Tell us about your creative process and how you find the story/inspiration behind your pieces. For example: Babe, All Our Eggs Are Fried! 

, These humorous, vibrant depictions of women’s bodies are on display at Artistry
Babe, All Our Eggs Are Fried! 

My starting point is usually photographs. I archive images that I see in magazines or on my social feed that grab my attention, and I use them as a point of reference for the figures. Once I have the main subjects laid out I then work very intuitively, experimenting with different media and finding ways to visually translate my thoughts. The way I internalize the things that I see around me is through a lens of humor and so I let that dictate my work. Babe, All Our Eggs Are Fried! depicts two women lounging on a couch with fried eggs on their heads. This piece addresses the issues of fertility and the pressure of the biological clock ticking for women

The work has a very specific style and color palette. Tell us a bit about how you make those choices.

I tend to have the main subjects, the females, drawn out in bold lines because I want to accentuate the female form. I think a woman’s relationship to her body is a big part of her identity, so that’s what I am trying to highlight by using this approach. I usually have very few elements in the environment, just enough to give some context, and I elaborate on these individual items by painting them with ornate motifs. 

You have a professional background in advertising. What prompted you to pursue art, and specifically this exhibition?

Well, making art was a big part of my upbringing. Almost everyone in my family draws or paints — my mom, aunts, uncles and grandma. My aunt, who is an artist in Mysore, is a big influence for me because I grew up with her work and spent my  school holidays learning from her. So making art has always been with me but only recently have I started taking it more seriously .

, These humorous, vibrant depictions of women’s bodies are on display at Artistry
Bad Feminist Selfie

Tell us about the organization this exhibition will help. Why did you choose to work with them?

I chose Seva Sedan because their focus is not just on charity but on education, self-sufficiency and financial independence for destitute girls, who would otherwise be living on the streets with no means to improve their lives. And also because my close friend’s mom and aunt are on the board so I know its legit and they will be accountable for the money sent over.

Would you consider your work feminist art?

This is my first show and I feel that I have only scratched the surface of my artistic practice at this point, so it’s hard to say. But I want to continue representing female voices in my work and I want it to function with or without it being categorised as feminist art. 

What has your experience of feminism been working in media & advertising in Singapore?
I think women are becoming more vocal about unequal pay and sexism at work. From my experience in media and advertising I think that sexism is pretty prevalent. And sometimes it can be difficult, especially for younger women, to address these issues because they might be so intricately woven into the system or culture. 
, These humorous, vibrant depictions of women’s bodies are on display at Artistry
                                                                                                                                       One Last Drink

What have your experiences in the arts been in Singapore?

My experience with the arts community has been very positive. I feel that artists and creators in Singapore are very supportive and inclusive. Art curator and writer, Viviana Mejia helped me put the show together and wrote the text for the exhibition. Later this month, on the 23rd at Artistry, I will be collaborating with a performance artist Sonia Kwek, poets Stephanie Dogfoot and Deborah Emmanuel, where they will respond to my works through poetry and performance. 
The Topless Liberation Front runs through Jan 8 at Artistry.