contemporary international art 512 1st Avenue South | Seattle, WA 98104 206.839.0377 | www.artxchange.org
There is a quiet presence in Deborah Kapoor’s new body of work. The exhibition Breathing In, Breathing Out is formed by mixed-media encaustic paintings and sculptural objects. Thread, cotton, paper, lint, wood, wax and film become material embodiments of immaterial explorations in meditation, prayer and the self. The Sanskrit word prana translates to breath, and in Vedantic philosophy is the notion of a vital, life-sustaining force of living beings and vital energy. Kapoor’s travels throughout India have become the sensorial landscape from which her work and her investigations into Indian spirituality and philosophy emerge. Dualistic abstractions of presence and absence, spirit and matter, fullness and emptiness are poised in a series of conceptual and formal relationships. Kapoor explores the potential for forms to embody immaterial processes like breath, mindfulness and prayer. Circles predominate in the work, an elemental symbol alluding to continuity, exchange and containment. Other forms reflect tablets or portals, serving as thresholds between place and space. Paper and fabric are sculpted into cavities and curtains that activate space. In Kramamudra, a floating sari blouse suggests both the presence and absence of the chest, the center of breath. In other works like Kumbhaka—a Sanskrit word which translates to retention of life force—fullness is displayed through a gathering of thirty-five extended circles. Careful attention to the manner in which objects are displayed in the gallery reinforces the dialectic between presence and absence. Some of the objects are suspended, placed upon or above mirrors and project from the wall, animating the delicate balance between form and formlessness manifested through mirrored reflections and cast shadows. Breathe Your Mind, Mind Your Breath (detail) 2009 encaustic, paper, galvanized steel 12 inch circle
This tenuous balance between the corporeal and the ethereal is revealed through literal and conceptual references to the body. Ephemera like paper, string, lint and fabric are layered in veils of encaustic, held in suspension and contained in wax. Many of the objects embody a record of their physical becoming through topographies of drips, calligraphy, knots and stitches. Certain works evoke the process works of the sculptor Eva Hesse where malleable and translucent materials—cheesecloth, netting and rope—are molded with liquid latex and fiberglass to suggest bodily gestures and attributes. Similarly, Kapoor enjoys the plasticity and
Left to Right: Kramamudra, Kumbhaka, Elephant Airavata, Marut III and Mahakala
fragility of working with wax, via encaustic. “I combine encaustic often with non-traditional grounds and think of it as a kind of skin—it holds, it protects, it is a sensory organ.”1 In Elephant Airavata a series of seven wooden discs are inscribed on both sides with the Indian and English words for the seven constituents that make up the body: earth (raja), fluids (rasa), blood (rakta), flesh (mansa), fat (medba), bone (asthi) and bone marrow (majjan).2 The words become signifiers for the body while the circular discs literalize embodiment. Each disc contains a word, floating beneath a translucent veil of encaustic, reminding one of the faint lines of a vein underneath the skin. The painting Marut III simultaneously reveals and conceals what is layered or written. There is a push and pull between surface and space—transparency and opacity—evoking the allusion of a shallow membrane, an envelope of containment like the lungs or the spaces between tongue and mouth where sounds become sculpted. Sanskrit and English words are inscribed on many of the paintings and sculptures. The written becomes a site where transformation can occur between the formal and the conceptual, a transition from stasis to action. While Kapoor explores the transformative aspect of the written word, she also presents language as artifact, as in the hanging piece Mahakala, where written conversations from saved postcards and letters are sewn into collective strands of memory. For Kapoor, the tactile and the textual are vessels and vehicles for the spiritual. Deborah Kapoor’s paintings and objects reveal an engagement with the physical process of making. This is referenced through repetitious acts of stitching, cutting, stringing and layering, which similarly suggest mindfulness—heightened concentration. The connection to bodily gesture and action is also articulated through scale; many of the forms elicit a desire to touch, hold or even inhabit. In this manner, corporeality is constructed through ‘absence as presence’; circles contain space and suspended pieces carve out and create new boundaries. It is through these formal and conceptual strategies that Kapoor encourages us to read fullness in emptiness.
Stephany E. Rimland
Assistant Professor of Art History Harper College, Illinois
1) Deborah Kapoor, Artist Statement, 2009 2) Personal communication with artist, May 10, 2009
Mahakala Inexorable Passage of Time 2009 encaustic, greeting cards, thread 78 x 47 inches
Susupti Sound, Dreamless Sleep 2009 encaustic, cotton pads, thread, mirror tile from deconstructed indian handbags, tassels 27.5 x 28.5 inches Watching her infant son sleep, Kapoor found herself checking the simple rise and fall of his chest to make sure he was still breathing. As a new parent, nothing seemed more paramount than this breath.
Rakhana Cloud Curtain 2009 encaustic on paper 12 x 21.5 inches (5 panels)
Kramamudra Swinging Between Internal and External 2009 encaustic, ink, fabric, ribbon 14 x 31 x 5 inches The left and right panels of the blouse are inscribed with the Gayatri Mantra, one of the oldest and most powerful of Sanskrit mantras. It is believed that by chanting the Gayatri Mantra and firmly establishing it in the mind, your life will be full of happiness and achieve enlightenment. In this piece, the mantra protects where the breath comes from.
Mana Eva Manushyanam Karanam Bandha Mokshayoh As the Mind, so the Man; Bondage or Liberation are in your own Mind 2009 encaustic, inkjet prints, paper seven 9.5 inch circles
Vahana Vehicle of a God or Goddess 2009 encaustic, dryer lint, indian woodblock print on paper, thread, batting 10 x 11.5 x 1.25 inches
Mala Prayer Beads, Cyclical Time 2009 encaustic, paper, ink, brads 36 x 24 inches in diameter Mala is a set of 108 beads commonly used in prayer. Malas are used for keeping count while reciting, chanting, or mentally repeating a mantra, so that one can focus on the meaning or sound of the mantra rather than counting its repetitions. This practice is known in Sanskrit as japa. One repetition is usually said for each bead while turning the thumb clockwise around the bead. In Kapoorâ€™s Mala, the Gayatri Mantra, one of the holiest Sanskrit mantras, is inscribed on each of the 108 paper spheres.
Shabda – Viyat Sound, Word – Space, Sky 2009 encaustic, paper, ink on panel 12 x 18 x .75 inches
Antaraatma Inner Souls 2007 encaustic, thread, paper 21 x 35 x 1 inches
Kumbhaka Retention of Life Force 2009 encaustic, wire, paper, yarn 28 x 16 x 2.5 inches Nadi (the Sanskrit word for â€œtube, pipeâ€?) are the channels through which the energies of the subtle body are said to flow in traditional Indian medicine and spiritual science. They connect at special points of intensity called chakras. Kapoor uses yarn to highlight the intersection of the nadis and repeats the chakra rows to emphasize the idea of energies in the body.
Elephant Airavata 2009 encaustic, paper, thread, wood seven 3 inch circles There are seven major chakras or energy centers of the body. The Sanskrit name given to the base chakra is Muladhara, meaning root or foundation. Depictions of this chakra in Hindu mythology include an elephant named Airavata, who symbolizes strength, fidelity, long memory, patience and wisdom. An elephant is also a slow and heavy animal, attributes that portray some of the qualities of this chakra. The skin of the elephant is a soft grey and he is sometimes pictured with seven trunksâ€”the number relating to the universe, to completeness and totality. In this context the seven trunks represent the seven colors of the spectrum, the seven major planets and the seven constituents that make up the human body. These are earth (raja), fluids (rasa), blood (rakta), flesh (mansa), fat (medba), bone (asthi) and bone marrow (majjan). They also link with our desire for security, procreation, longevity, sharing, knowledge, selfrealization and union. When all of these attributes are balanced we become complete.
Marut III Breath 3 2009 encaustic on paper on wood 21.5 x 17.5 x .75 inches In this series of five panels Kapoor examines idioms surrounding the idea of breath.
Marut I Breath 1 (detail) 2009 encaustic on paper on wood 21.5 x 17.5 x .75 inches
Left to Right: Marut II Breath 2, Marut IV Breath 4 and Marut V Breath 5 (detail) 2009 encaustic on paper on wood 21.5 x 17.5 x .75 inches each
Saans Lena To Breathe
SELECTED SOLO EXHIBITIONS 2009 “Breathing In, Breathing Out,” ArtXchange Gallery, Seattle, WA 2007 “Samskara,” Ferguson Gallery, Concordia University, Chicago, IL. Curator: Betty Ann Mocek 2000 Illinois Institute of Art, Chicago, IL. Curator: Heather Accurso “New Work,” Harper College, Palatine, IL. Curator: Ben Dallas, Artist 1999 “20 Women,” College of DuPage, Glen Ellyn, IL 1996 “Deborah Kapoor: Mixed Media,” Durham Art Guild, Durham, NC. Curator: Laura Roselli, Director 1994 “New Paintings,” McKinney Gallery, West Chester, PA. Curator: Richard Blake, Director 1990 “Recent Paintings and Books,” Mariboe Gallery, Hightstown, NJ. Curator: Catherine Robohm Watkins, Gallery Director SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS 2009 2008 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 1998 1997 1993 1991
2009 | encaustic, paper| 32 x 10 inches
“American/Asian,” ArtXchange Gallery, Seattle, WA Fourth Annual Encaustic Invitational, Conrad Wilde Gallery, Tucson, AZ “Beyond Matter” Crane Arts Center, Philadelphia, PA. Curator: Nora Lawrence, MOMA, New York, NY “In the Round,” Schlosberg Gallery, Montserrat College of Art, Beverly, MA (with Kim Bernard) “Fiber/Art,” ArtXchange Gallery, Seattle, WA “Over the Edge +”, ArtEAST Studios, Issaquah, WA “On the Edge: New Work in Encaustic,” 301 Gallery, Montserrat College of Art, Beverly, MA “What Does Compassion Look Like?™,” ArtXchange, Seattle, WA “Third Annual Encaustic Invitational,” Conrad Wilde Gallery, Tucson, AZ “All or Nothing,” LIPA Gallery, Chicago, IL “Invitational,” LIPA Gallery, Chicago, IL “The Corpus Connection,” Delaware Art Gallery, Newark, Delaware; traveling show to Texas A&M University, Corpus Christi, TX “Chicago Art Open,” School of the Art Institute, Chicago, IL “I’m in Control Now,” Trenton Artists’ Coalition, 50CD/Book Collaboration, Trenton, NJ “St. Charles Arts Festival,” national juried show, St. Charles, IL. Juror: Lynn Warren, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL “Faculty at COD,” Gahlberg Gallery, Glen Ellyn, IL. Curator: Eileen Broido, Director, Gahlberg Gallery “Women in Abstraction,” Woman Made Gallery, Chicago, IL. Juror: Judith Geichman & Noriko Ebersole, Artists “Playing Games,” Mariboe Gallery, Peddie School, Hightstown, NJ “Putting It All Together,” Princeton University, Princeton, NJ. Juror: Wendy Wilkinson, Artist “Ellarslie Open XI,” Trenton City Museum, Trenton, NJ. Juror: Duncan LaPlante, Trenton City Museum “Small Works Show,” Arts Council of Princeton, Princeton, NJ. Juror: Lloyd McNeil, Rutgers University “Annual Juried Exhibition,” Mercer County Community College, Trenton, NJ. Juror: B. Katsif, Director, James Michener Art Museum “Far and Between,” Jentra Gallery, Freehold, NJ “Annual Juried Exhibition,” Watchung Arts Center, Watchung, NJ. Juror: Dr. Hildreth York, Rutgers University “Open Juried Show,” ARTWORKS/Trenton, Trenton, NJ. Juror: Alejandro Anreus, Curator, Montclair Art Museum
Credits Cover image: “Mala - Prayer Beads, Cyclical Time” (detail) Catalog Design: Islanda Khau, Gallery Designer Photography: Sanjay Kapoor © 2009 ArtXchange Gallery No part of this publication may be reproduced without written consent from ArtXchange.
contemporary international art 512 1st Avenue South | Seattle, WA 98104 206.839.0377 | www.artxchange.org