Whenever you think about provocative art, many of the artists hail from Western countries. Few Asian artists dare to venture into the realm of controversial art.
But Dipali Gupta doesn't see her sex toy art as controversial. Her art work involves the use of vibrators and it started off as a school assignment.
At 40, Dipali decided to go back to school. She chose to go into art, something she was passionate about and wanted to pursue. This journey ultimately led her to create 'Her Pleasure'. This is her interview with Asian Money Guide.
My artwork using sex toys started as an experiment as one of the electives in Lasalle. It was a joint machines elective and we were asked to use machines to create a work of art. I thought why not, even vibrators are machines and it could create art.
Eventually I realised it was an object loaded with a lot of sensibilities which could affect women in sexual pleasure, and even carrying societal and political connotations.
When I first showed the work, there were some women who came and they were completely repulsed by it. They thought that this was “eww”.
When it comes to female sexual pleasure, we don’t really talk about it. We sometimes even think about it as dirty, or impure, and immoral. There were some reactions like that.
But on the other hand, I also had a lot of positive reactions. There was a mum who came up to me and she said “I really like what you’re doing. This is really cool. This is the way to go moving forward.”
Art is all about surprises. It’s always something new. I don't plan. I just go, I just do and just figure it out. It’s always surprising to see your work and the way you personally react to it, and then afterwards, see other people react to it.
I cannot impose my point of view on the work. I would rather have them take their own point of view or take whatever they want to take back from that work. It’s always interesting to see that. Every time you create, it’s so experimental. Like for example, with the vibrator drawings, I can keep doing them and suddenly just realise, ‘Oh I never thought it could move this way’. I think it’s the same when you’re trying to use it on yourself.
I don’t think that this art is controversial. Firstly, because it’s about a female body. A lot of artists have already done work like that. I don't even use a female body in my work. It’s all abstracted through drawings or videos which do not show a physical form or a physical body in it.
That is another another challenge that I put to myself, creating works which do not distract the viewer from the topic.
A lot of the support from my family was because of open communication, how I spoke to my husband on this. It was good to get a man’s point of view on the topic as well. Just having this open conversation was what made it easier for me to move forward.
As for my teenage daughter, I’m glad she understands what it is. I think having an open conversation about sex, sexual pleasure, owning your body and giving your body as a woman the right to have pleasure is the most important learning that you can give to your child. And the earlier she knows about it, I feel, the fewer mistakes she will make going forward.
It changed my life because I started looking at women and women’s issues quite differently. I hope that my art practice can look at issues from a positive point of view.
I do not consider us as women to be weak or oppressed. The time to think about all these things is over. It's time to go out there and putting your best foot forward.
It has made me take on more challenges, and not brood about the place that we come or our histories.
Oh, I have never fit that stereotype of a mum. I’m kind of like this silly, crazy, clumsy person who is just having fun.
But real talk: what normally happens is that we tend to follow rules without questioning them. You know the rules: Finish your education by 20 or 22, then get a job and get married by 28. I see a lot of women doing this because we tend to take these as benchmarks but what we don't realise is that the world is changing so fast and we need to start having our own benchmarks.
What makes us tick is what will instigate our passion. So my advice is to just go for whatever you want to do. I went back to school at 40, doing things which were totally not conventional. You should allow yourself to kind of have that freedom of doing what you really like to do.
I think women know it all. We all know where we come from, we all know where we want to go. I think it’s just a matter of putting in a little bit of courage, giving yourself that little bit of time to move from point A to B. Whatever our situations, whatever problems that we have, we are dealing with it in the best manner that we know how to. I’m positive that we will all, at the end of it, be able to prove ourselves or be where we want to be.