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Friday Review » Art

Updated: November 24, 2009 20:46 IST

Epic effort

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Seema Kohli
Seema Kohli

Seema Kohli's work is characterised by rich metaphors

The Saraswati is holding aloft a golden globe –– not the veena or book you expect. The Ashvatha or Tree of Life painting has, surprisingly, an inverted tree.

But then, that is artist Seema Kohli for you. This well-known painter takes iconic figures and elements from ancient stories and philosophical texts and adds her own interpretation to create a unique visual vocabulary.

Rich metaphors

Seema's deep and lifelong study of philosophy –– Indian, Islamic, Sufi and European –– and the rich metaphors drawn from them were evident in her works at the exhibition “Mystical Narratives” at Taj West End's Art Corridor. The solo exhibition of mixed media on canvas, is in collaboration with Mahua Art Gallery.There was a striking Kamadhenu –– the celestial cow which gives its unlimited bounties to the heavenly beings. It was presented here with a male consort “to represent the female and male energies in unison”, as Seema explained. Another eye catcher was from the Gandharva (celestial beings) series. She described them as unseen flying celestial beings; the positive energies in the environment around us. “In my imagery, I attempt to capture these unseen bodies who are in the form of subtle movement in the air, the anaahat or soundless music, the fragrance which envelops us….” Rich detailing, bright, arresting colours, philosophy-inspired metaphors, layered textures, and an array of figures mostly from the Indian epics and Vedic texts have always characterised Seema's work. So, this exhibition is only the latest in her exploration of the philosophical and mystical.

Her earlier series “Geet Govind” examined the episodes of Lord Krishna's life while the set of paintings titled “Hiranya-Garbha” (Sanskrit for golden womb) was inspired by the Yajur Veda hymns.

And all these works have been widely appreciated. Seema has exhibited extensively and her work is part of major public spaces and private collections.

Seema, who won the Lalit Kala Akademi award has created installations as public art for the Ministry of Defence, and been invited to participate in the Sovereign Art Foundation, Hong Kong, Art Basel in Switzerland, Florence Biennial, Gabron Museum Vallodalid, Spain, etc. She has also been part of Ashtanayaka, an international travelling exhibition.

Why this abiding interest in philosophy and related themes? “My family, where the epics were revered, formed the foundation for my study of philosophy. I became more interested as I grew up and began to explore them myself. And the more I learnt, the more they fascinated me. Besides studying the Upanishads, epics, Vedas, Tantra, etc., I also delved into Sufism, and European philosophy. All this made me form certain concepts and approaches which I use to express my inner creative self. My visual expression offers an alchemy of this experience in colour and form.”


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