Nilupa Yasmin uses self-portraiture in her new series ফুলদানি – Phuldhani, a Bengali phrase which translates into English as Flowers in a Vase. Engaging with the historical tendency for women to be compared to flowers, Yasmin was particularly influenced by the 1792 essay ‘A vindication of the rights of women’, by English writer, philosopher and advocate of women’s rights, Mary Wollstonecraft;
‘The conduct and manners of women, in fact, evidently prove, that their minds are not in a healthy state; for, like the flowers that are planted in too rich a soil, strength and usefulness are sacrificed to beauty; and the flaunting leaves, after having pleased a fastidious eye, fade, disregarded on the stalk, long before the season when they ought to have arrived at maturity.’ (Wollstonecraft, 1792)
Using soil as the metaphor for society and examining women’s cultivation within this during 18th century England, Wollstonecraft concludes the environment is detrimental to women achieving their potential.
With Phuldhani Yasmin explores this notion of the cultivation of women within society, but brings it into the 21st century, with herself, a young British Bangladeshi female as the subject. Employing contemporary technology, the photographs were taken as selfies on her mobile phone; a departure from Yasmin’s usual photographic studio set-up, which she found was unable to replicate the intimacy and immediacy created through use of a phone.
The images of flowers that Yasmin has overlaid onto her portraits, are photographs that she took in 2018 at the home of her grandparents and aunt, who live in America. Densely layered and carefully composed by Yasmin, her features become intertwined with the flora and fauna, often to such a degree that the artist and her distinctive head scarves and floral shirts become camouflaged. There is a rich heritage of craft in the artist’s family which Yasmin utilises in her artistic practice and so she cannot resist manipulating the images further. Cutting into them around the curves of petals and leaves in order to lift these from the surface therefore making the hand of the artist visible. The resulting images present the viewer with a challenge to navigate her self-portraits, the artist thereby maintaining a level of control as to how she, as the subject, may be viewed.
ফুলদানি – Phuldhani was created with support from The New Art Gallery Walsall x Grain
Installation images by Jonny Bark