• Indo-Canadian artist Nimisha Bhanot is confronting the idea of the "good Indian girl" (Nimisha Bhanot)Source: Nimisha Bhanot
The collection explores the perception of women from a bicultural perspective and sticks it to the patriarchy by featuring "good Indian girls" in typically provocative, pinup-style poses.
Bianca Soldani

14 Apr 2016 - 11:50 AM  UPDATED 14 Apr 2016 - 12:20 PM

Brought up in Toronto, Canada to Indian parents, Nimisha Bhanot mixes influences from her bicultural background in a seriously badass series of paintings.

The boundary-pushing artist looks at vintage pinup images from an Indian perspective in her provocative collection, Badass Pinups. Designed to explore multicultural perspectives, it works to challenge the established Indian patriarchy and the idea of a "good Indian girl".

"My work explores the societal role and perception of women from a bicultural perspective and therefore is a juxtaposition of cultural references from South Asian and North American culture,' Ms Bhanot tells SBS Life.

"I'm trying to show my viewers the way that I look at the world through both lenses. The characters I'm portraying in my paintings are badass because they are breaking patriarchal expectations just like myself and the individuals that I'm inspired by.

She adds that she was inspired to create something "that represents the stories we sweep under the rug in our community."

"When a woman marries outside of her caste/culture/religion it's considered badass. If she looks back when people are talking about her, it's considered pretty badass. I think it's really important to celebrate these victories we make everyday instead of letting them fade into gossip, and what better way than immortalising them in a painting!"

Ms Bhanot's body of work sees a series of women posing confidently in pinup inspired outfits while adorned with more traditional Indian jewellery and tattoos.

One image titled Beauty of the Orient at your Elbow, features a young lady saluting the viewer, while another stars a woman lying on her back with her stiletto-clad feet in the air and telephone to her ear.

A similar series, looking at Badass Brides on the other hand, features an Indo-African, Indo-Canadian and Indo-Chinese woman dressed in wedding wear to challenge the expectations tied to a traditional Indian marriage.

Drawing on her own experience when painting, Ms Bhanot strongly believes her own bicultural background has enriched her life.

"Although it can be challenging to live within the norms of both South Asian and North American culture, I sincerely believe it was the best upbringing I could possibly have because I was able to have the best of both worlds," she says.

"My parents did their very best to teach me and my siblings about our culture, history and religion while also making sure we took part in any North American traditions or customs we were interested in. They put an Indian twist on everything but never forced any beliefs on us and I'm forever grateful because I know it's because of them that I can confidently make the art I do today."

The artist is currently working on a new collection that is set to explore sexual, gender and racial identity, and is calling for South Asian people of all body types, genders and skin tones to participate to pose as models for her paintings.

"My next painting series will be about social media and the South Asian diaspora," she explains.

"I'm taking inspiration from Baroque art and classic portraiture to honour leaders and change makers in our community like Sanam Sindhi, Vivek Shraya, Dark Matter Poetry and Tanya Rawal. I'm excited for this series because each of these individuals are badass in their own way and deserve to be celebrated like royalty."

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