Eternal Maharana and She II
About the work
A lone veiled woman stands with her back turned, in an elegant faded interior. This figure is a frequent motif in Güler Ates’ photographs. The woman’s identity is obscured through her pose, creating a mystery in terms of narrative. Ates achieves a sense of timelessness in her work by referencing multiple sources, including the exotic, luxuriously dressed women common in 19th- century Orientalist art, and intimate portraits of individual women in 17th- and 18th-century interior paintings by Jan Vermeer and other Dutch masters. The critic Josephine Rout considers the art historical references in Ates' work as:
'… both reverential and subversive. By acknowledging Orientalism, a genre created by and for European male artists that is often considered mere aesthetic indulgences of erotic desire rather than accurate or cognisant depictions of the Middle East, Ates asks us to reconsider these tropes. Thus, by working in regards to this tradition, the female body is reclaimed, thereby commanding respect and allowing autonomy of the figure. In doing so, Ates is able to reclaim not simply the female body, but also Orientalist imagery, resulting in highly charged images that are seductive yet defiant'.
For this work, Ates collaborated with her model, a classical Indian dancer, who wore fabrics from local markets and a textile factory in Udaipur, Rajasthan. She photographed her in the interior of the City Palace Museum in Udaipur, a building founded in 1559. Inspired by stories about the palace and the layers of history associated with its architectural setting, Ates was given free rein to move among its elegant rooms, filled with wall paintings, mirrors, coloured glass, and ornate floor coverings. Catching glimpses of exterior courtyards and inner sanctuaries within the Palace, she became aware of how the building resonated with the historical presences of the women of the household who had once occupied those spaces.
As with previous work, the figure in Ates’; work is ambiguous, denying us the power to label and judge, subverting the Orientalist trope of the harem scene in which women are depicted as decorative features of the interior. Rather, it is the privacy of the Zenana, the Hindi term for the inner apartments of a house in India and Pakistan in which the women of the family live, that Ates captures in her work.
About the artist
Güler Ates was born in Mus (Eastern Turkey) and graduated from the Royal College of Art with a MA Fine Art in Printmaking in 2008. Currently, Ates is Digital Print Tutor at the Royal Academy Schools. She has exhibited work in Britain, Turkey, India, Japan, France, the Netherlands, and the United States. Her work is collected internationally and her artworks are included in numerous public collections, including the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Royal Academy, London.
Güler Ates (1977 - )
- Eternal Maharana and She II
- Archival photographic print
- height: 100.00 cm, width: 65.50 cm
- Purchased from Art First, March 2015
- GAC number