Delhi-based Seema Kohli, one of the most recognised contemporary Indian artists, needs no introduction. What art connoisseurs wait for are her masterful creations that intertwine elements of daily life and spirituality, which she captivatingly presents in a combination of paintings, drawings, sculptures, installations and multidimensional performances.
Cut From The Same Cloth is her latest labour of love that opens for preview today evening at Bikaner House with the British High Commissioner to India, Alexander Ellis, set to mark his attendance. “I have been working since 2016 on this project, allowing myself to enquire into the limits of my own art practice by constantly blurring boundaries between myth and reality, self and spirtuality,” she says.
This is the first time Seema is bringing together 15 large and small embellished embroideries, along with three paintings based on her narratives of the womb, and 18 drawings done with gold leaf and inks on archival paper that depict the instruments and material she used in the process of creating the artworks for the show.
“It is a universal odyssey and I rejoiced creating my own narrative amalgamations of Shakti, the feminine cosmic energy, which is the source of all powers of creation and destruction,” she says. In this particular journey, she says, she is guided by the verses of many saints and mystics such as Kabir, Nanak, Namdev, Baba Farid, Bulleh Shah and Shah Hussain, whose sermons scrutinised the body-spirit connection.
Seema loves to celebrate creation and change with imagery from all walks of life. She says we do not know what another dimension of existence is and, in her latest series, walks viewers through stories from existential life that inter-mingle with the spiritual. Her splendid works of weaves and stitches in silk and cotton threads on raw untreated canvas, embellished with glass beads and sequins, show winged creatures that represent cosmic journeys of the soul and mythical creatures that symbolise physical, physiological and ideological birth.
“An artist is like a river and I am an experimental artist constantly using various art mediums. My artworks celebrate the female form and the colours of life; they are vivid and living as there is a constant dialogue between me and my inner and outer world,” she says. “I express the diverse nuances of daily life by making my art less complicated because I understand the inter-wovenness of beauty and power, sensuality and spirituality. I delve in that space,” she adds.
Seema acquired a weaving loom and a charkha from weavers in Panipat for an installation that will employ the unique mechanical sonorities of the loom as “a symbolic representation of the ceaseless cosmic creation into which we are all minutely interwoven.”
A self-taught artist of three decades with over 32 solo shows and 250 group shows in India, Europe, and the United States, her body of work has been showcased at international art fairs and are in collection in museums in India and abroad. Seema modestly says she is an abstract storyteller, drawing inspiration from mythology, philosophy, iconography and literature to create stories that reclaim the lost feminine narrative in cultural history. One finds resonance in her inter-mingling art forms. For a viewer, it is like an introspection that leads to a kind of liberation. “Art, life and sharing truly intersect for me; it is my journey towards heightened awareness of the self and the divine,” she says.
The exhibition presented by Gallery Nvya is on view at the Center of Contemporary Art, Bikaner House; Till August 4; 11 am to 7 pm