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Tejal Shah

Indian Contemporary Artist
Born 1979, Bhilai, India
Lives and works in Goa, India

An experimental video artist, Tejal's oeuvre includes a wide range of mediums through which she expresses her bold and sometimes controversial ideologies. She attempts to actualate dynamic and ambitious projects relating to sexuality, gender politics and exploitation. Larger socio-political concerns and their impact in the world are also explored in Shah's multi-dimensional works.



Master of Fine Arts, Bard College, New York


Bachelor of Arts (Photography), Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Melbourne, Australia

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A multi-dimensional visual artist

Tejal Shah is a multi-dimensional visual artist whose compositions comprise of installations, sound recordings, videos, photography, performance , et al. She is of a neo-modernistic artistic temperament with myriad influences from all over the globe being reflected in her creations.

The primary themes explored by Shah through her assertive and thought-provoking creations deal with alternate sexuality, disabilities of the body and mind, gender politics and exploitation, and even the interdependence of humankind on natural resources. Sexuality and its various aspects are in fact, a recurring premise in her work. In her own words, Tejal says, "I always wonder, what if there were indeed a thousand tiny genders? And we could define our own unique one, which is always open to change, or what if we don't need to define one at all because it does not matter" . Her protagonists range from 19th Century hysteria patients, transvestites, queers, hijras, androgynous women, and all possible 'controversial' figures (as per gender) with 'unusual' sexual propensities.

Tejal Shah, Waiting I, 2007, digital photograph on archival rag paper, 30 x 30”.

Tejal Shah, Anonymous Life Series, Hir I, II, III & IV, 2013, Hir I: dry pastel on paper, Hir II: gouache and ink on paper, Hir III: ink on paper, Hir IV: gouache and ink on paper, 11.02 x 14.17”

She explores the impact of social and religious issues on the common man

Not just sexuality, but even intertwined issues which continue to plague the country and the world at large, of violence, religious identity, ethnicity, socio-political concerns and their relevance and impact on the common man such as the post-Godhra mass massacre of the minority community in Gujarat are reflected in her work. She has used the medium of a hard-hitting video entitled I Love My India, 2003, shot in Nariman Point, which brings to the fore the subject of the common man's reactions as a nation to such violent crimes committed under the guise of religion. The video also features the post-9/11 status quo regarding an individual's reactions to such despicable acts of mass violence and whether we have become more tolerant of such open hatred.

Tejal Shah, a still from the 10-minute video “I Love My India”.

Shah's treatment of human form and the 'other gender' is bold

By far, the most crucial aspect of Shah's multi-hued repertoire deals with the human form. She presents the body as a complete entity with its own sexuality, gender, inclinations, tendencies, demands and propensities, thereby lending a voice to the third or the other gender as we recognize it today. This can clearly be sampled from her works. For example, the Hijra Fantasy series, a part of her work What are you? 2006, delves into the supple and sinuous body language of the transgender or hijra community, who are the main protagonists of this video cum photographic installation. She deftly explores the hardships and marginalized status of transvestites in modern society and the title very amply questions their binary status in terms of sexuality. Similarly, in the video There is a spider living between us, the pertinent question directed at viewers is simply, what is it you desire? For Shah, the gender is secondary, the key factor is desire and boldly enough, she has even explored her personal bodily cravings in the video.

Tejal Shah, There is a spider living between us, 2009, video still.

Tejal Shah, The barge she sat in, like a burnished throne/Burned on the water, 2006, from the hijra fantasy series

An extremely controversial artist, Shah is too shocking for Indian audiences

Controversy and Tejal Shah seem to go hand-in-hand owing to highly provocative themes depicted by equally stark visuals. Despite not being so well known in India, she is much acclaimed in the western world, having taken her work to prominent venues, like the Tate Modern in London and Centre Pompidou in Paris. An Indian woman who is a self-proclaimed 'queer', Shah attempts to eliminate the dividing line between the two genders and discover the innermost compulsions and wants of a human being.

Tejal Shah, Between The Waves - Outer, 2012, mixed media collage, digital print, 72 x 50".

Her works do not pertain to one particular genre

Her genre cannot be compartmentalised into a particular category with references as diverse as homoeroticism in Ancient Greece in the film There is a spider living between us, ambiguous androgeny explored by revealing phallic images of the unicorn in the video Between The Waves, or Southern Siren presenting Maheshwari as a South Indian film-star swooning over the hero, both under the Hijra Fantasy series, or by very cleverly christening her 2004-05, video work Trans- where she explores the word as a potent prefix to her choicest themes dealing with transformation, transit, translation, transgender, transfer, transient, transgressive, transvestite, transnational, transliterate, and so on . Through her work, she celebrates and sexes up themes pertaining to 'the other gender' and yet does not use mindless eroticism to titillate; instead it is deftly omnipresent to make a statement on the conventional duality of gender accepted by society and what lies beyond, whilst her creations on religious and social issues are essentially meant to introspect and question self-identity amidst turbulence and tumult.

Tejal Shah, Between The Waves - Outer, 2012, mixed media collage, digital print, 72 x 50"

Tejal Shah, Between The Waves - Outer, 2012, mixed media collage, digital print, 72 x 50"