Over the course of a well-regarded career spanning 45 years and counting, Gogi Saroj Pal has used the fantastical and the mythological to depict the powerful, the free, and the sensuous within all women. Many of her works feature tauric creatures, human-beast hybrids, including subjects that combine women with birds, cows, horses, and lions. Here are a few of her amazing artworks (click on each for the source of the art):
This statue is a representation of a Kamdhenu, that is, a wish fulfilling cow. As one reviewer has remarked, "Kamadhenu, the legendary wish-fulfilling cow invoked to fulfil all dreams and desires. That role of being gifted and giving happens to be assigned to women." As the artist herself has said, "People say of Kamadhenu, she is so good — she can fulfil all your desires! It is interesting that no one has ever asked about what Kamadhenu herself may desire — if she desired ... How can her own wishes be fulfilled?"
From her series of paintings of half-bird, half-human Kinnari, this theme draws on the mythological perfect spouse, musician, and dancer of South and Southeast Asia. As one reviewer says, "This image and others such as Saroj Pal’s series on Kinnari, the mythical bird-woman, form part of a new vocabulary of eroticism. These brazen creatures are both women and beasts, in a constant state of metamorphosis between being civilised and savage, demure and defiant — subverting the original intent of he who desires and she who is desirable."
I have found two titles for this centaur: "The Dancing Horse" and "weiblicher Kentaur." It may be related to the Islamic mythological creature called the buraq or burraq.
My favorite, of course, is this liontaur, from a series of paintings titled "Hat Yogini." In most of this series, a nude woman, traditionally a holy figure known as Shakti or Durga, rides a tiger or lion. In the painting above, she becomes the lion. Karen Kurczynski explains the subversive nature of the series: "The image combines a figure of strength, embodied in the exclusively male teaching of hatyog, with the feminine spiritual figure of the yogini."
An article in the Tribune of India explains the painting this way: "The Shakti is depicted as a hathayogini, wherein she does not have to ride a lion because she is herself half-woman, half-lion." The article quotes Gogi Saroj Pal, who says, "The Durga image has also been a part of my Nayika series, which celebrates Shakti in every woman."
In a book review, Sarita K. Heer describes Gogi's powerful use of tauric creatures. "Saroj Pal subverts the traditional image of women by depicting them as half-animal or mythical," Heer writes. "Because these figures are from forgotten myths, they are free to move outside accepted boundaries and in turn to express their own desires."
Please do take a deeper dive into the fantastic art of Gogi Saroj Pal, especially at this website and at this one.