Seema Kohli’s exhibition ‘The Silken Cord’ celebrates the circle of life

It is rather hard to describe Seema Kohli’s paintings because there are stories within stories and worlds within worlds. Her exhibition titled The Silken Cord, is perhaps best elaborated as a celebration of procreation, continuation and life.

Mythology, Nature and personal experiences are a large part of her paintings; apart from womanhood, journeys and live metaphors. Her thoughts are expressed not just on canvas but also as sculptures and embellished jewellery. “This series is about constant movement, karmic recycling,” says the artist, “it’s rather enchanting to watch and understand the ways of the universe. Everything here has its own journey and that’s what I’ve tried to express.”

Seema’s bright art is most often filled with lotuses with dancing stems. “Usually they symbolise enlightenment but to me, they somehow bring out the meaning of life; about the beginning and the end. If you look at a lotus pond, the stems are so intricately intertwined; you don’t know which stem holds which flower. In the same way, we start and end in different paths,” she explains.

Her depiction of the elements is women with long, unbound hair, wearing colourful garments that symbolise the elements they represent. There are metaphoric beings elsewhere too; representing gods, trees and even celestial gandharvas. “Trees are symbols in almost every faith and belief because they are rooted, even if they touch the skies. I use a lot of trees in my art; apple trees to signify procreation, banyan with its thick roots to denote enlightenment. You will find women adorning them because of prakriti and the fact that the celebration of procreation is a very feminine aspect. I also include images of the male to show that both the genders co-exist and are equal partners.”

Perhaps the aspect of male and female together come out well in one painting, where Shiva and Shakti are seen sitting on a buffalo. On the top, inside a golden sphere, you will see both powers merge as Ardhanarishvara. “Mythological references come from my own experiences and how I choose to express them,” exclaims the artist, “we cannot deny that we’re all on a journey. But where to? I try to understand this through my paintings.”

And while the different elements of each painting complement each other and form a bigger picture, they are also stories by themselves. Like her installation of a woman amidst lotus stems, standing with one leg bent while the soft petals dance around her and another with a man and woman forming the trunk of a great banyan, whose tendrils hold many playful gandharvas. Or even her jewellery, where necklaces alight with fiery winged angels in bright natural shades. “All the elements in my paintings are complete in themselves,” smiles Seema.

(The Silken Cord is on display at Gallery Veda, 4/22, Rutland Gate, 4th Street, Nungambakkam till December 9)

Everything here has its own journey and that’s what I’ve tried to express