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THE oTHEr SELF seema kohli


The Other Self “If you begin to understand what you are without trying to change it, then what you are undergoes a transformation” – J Krishnamurti There is an indolent tendency to view Seema Kohli’s aesthetic as decorative more than subliminal. But to do that would be erroneous. For Seema’s thinking is more deeply rooted in current concerns than one might expect, central to which is her quest – personal as well as universal – for freedom. It rises from her belief that the mind, like all things that nature has created, is free. Nor is she unique in this belief, echoes of which have existed among iconoclasts for millennia. The human body might be shackled by laws that govern our universe, but the mind remains inviolate, capable of its own revolutions, its own retreats The clues stare you in your face. There is the stirring of air among the branches of trees; and water splattering past any resistance with a happy splash; there is the warming sun and the cool blue of the moon, and they all exist in an organised structure that is outside fettered geographies and histories, the petty machinations of mankind and the growing tendency to erect barriers where none existed. This spirit is best represented in the wings of her beings – women, mostly, but also men – that soar through unseen currents, following their own rhythm, their own chosen path. Freedom she might seek, but Seema’s inner and outer worlds make a strong case for unity. Like the Buddhist icons, symbols of well being surround her figures. The tree is her great unifier, its sheltering orb a harbouring place for her wood nymphs and fairies. Under such a tree, with its towering branches and buried roots, the Buddha found enlightenment. It was under such trees that the ancient sages meditated, that poets and philosophers gathered, that animals rested. A tree gives but does not take; it sustains but does not dispossess; it unites but does not divide. The kindred spirits of mankind and nature, of man and woman, of sky and earth, of celestial bodies and beings, might appear at first escapist, but Seema roots them in the present ethos and environment. Wisdom that is ancient is still wisdom and it has a universality that escapes the barriers of time: so it is that she researches her myths and legends with a relevance that finds an echo in the present. It is these that strive for balance in a rapidly developing world where collated knowledge is under threat, where the premise and need for harmony is itself under siege. As mankind sows the seeds of destruction in an increasingly fragile – even hostile – environment, it is worth asking: Have we come to the end of our civilisation? It is of such profound belief that Seema’s clairvoyance is possessed. Faced with the spectre of annihilation, her art is a reminder that it is not too late to steer the wheel of time towards a world cast in grace and beauty. If humankind does not heed the surging tide of animosity and destruction, then all we might be left with are regret and nostalgia. Hopefully, that turn will not come, and Seema’s reflecting glass will continue to show us not a world lost but a world rendered perfect by our other self. Kishore Singh Writer, Curator, Friend 2015


CANVAS


“There is a god part in you. The consciousness. The pure self. Learn to listen the voice of that power” – Amit Ray Seema Kohli’s choice of the Bhagwad Gita as a subject is entirely natural, given her inclination towards spirituality, Sufism and universal harmony. The Gita, of course, does not rule out conflict, but it does so for its eventual realisation of a destiny foretold. Its nuanced telling is based on the restoration of order and congruence. As these paintings exemplify, Seema’s quest to unify the celestial and the terrestrial coalesce in the figure of a woman, while Vishnu roils the skies in his chariot of serpents. This depiction of righteousness is essentially a manifestation of one’s self with the other self, a discourse on that which is wrong and right, unjust and just, and the consequence of exemplary morality for which some sleight might, in fact, be justified. It is this dialogue with morality that forms the bedrock of the epic and the subject of not just this but the majority of Seema’s work.


Bhagwatgeeta Series

36x48in Mix media on canvas with 24K gold and silver leaf


Bhagwatgeeta Series - Chapter 11, Verse 22

36x48in Mix media on canvas with 24K gold and silver leaf


Bhagwatgeeta Series - Chapter 7

36x48in Mix media on canvas with 24K gold and silver leaf


Bhagwatgeeta Series

36x48in Mix media on canvas with 24K gold and silver leaf


Bhagwatgeeta Series - Chapter 9, Verse 5

36x48in Mix media on canvas with 24K gold and silver leaf


Bhagwatgeeta Series - Chapter 2, Verse 22

36x48in Mix media on canvas with 24K gold and silver leaf


Bhagwatgeeta Series - Chapter 6, Verse 18

36x48in Mix media on canvas with 24K gold and silver leaf


Bhagwatgeeta Series - Chapter 15, Verse 1

36x48in Mix media on canvas with 24K gold and silver leaf


The Golden Womb series

36x48in Mix media on canvas with 24K gold and silver leaf


“Your own self-realisation is the greatest service you can render the world” – Ramana Maharishi Wings and feathers – Seema Kohli’s women and men sprout them almost as easily as a metaphor. But this is no substitute for magic realism, and Seema’s figures are rooted in a material, terrestrial world. Make no mistake, Seema’s winged protagonist is an allegory for her leap of imagination. In investing her protagonists with these appendages, it is the flight of the mind to which she is referring. Seema’s idyllic world consists of overhead skies and rooted earth betwixt which can be spotted a group of cows and fish, swans and stars. Here are glades and bowers with lotuses and flowers, flowing streams and abundant, open skies. In this enchanted setting, her figures are charmed inhabitants. Keeping vigil over this blessed world, they cavort and leap, jump and fly, together or alone. Over the last years, Seema’s propensity for detail has got further honed, and her paintings are busier and more intensely layered. This apparent chaos is contradictorily rooted in meditative quietness and an ordered balance. The colours are richer, the tones at odds with the calm – almost as if a celebration of good fortune has come the way of the fragile universe. This stillness comes from within and is not intended as stimuli for the senses as much as a surrender to a world made beautiful through its realisation. The unique format of this series owes as much to Seema’s willingness to experiment with size as with shape. The round paintings, in particular, are an ode to her ability to understand perspective and play with the figures she puts in the centre of each. But whatever the shape, it is her ability to recreate an environment of concord which seeds her works with both feeling as well as emotion that, as much as it is seen, is also experienced.


The Golden Womb series

36x36in Mix media on canvas with 24K gold and silver leaf


The Golden Womb series

24x24in Mix media on canvas with 24K gold and silver leaf


The Golden Womb series

24x24in Mix media on canvas with 24K gold and silver leaf


The Golden Womb series

36x36in Mix media on canvas with 24K gold and silver leaf


The Golden Womb series

24x24in Mix media on canvas with 24K gold and silver leaf


The Golden Womb series

60x70in Mix media on canvas with 24K gold and silver leaf


The Golden Womb series

24x24in Mix media on canvas with 24K gold and silver leaf


The Golden Womb series

78x75in Mix media on canvas with 24K gold and silver leaf


The Golden Womb series

24x24in Mix media on canvas with 24K gold and silver leaf


The Golden Womb series

24x24in Mix media on canvas with 24K gold and silver leaf


The Golden Womb series

60x48in Mix media on canvas with 24K gold and silver leaf


Chaushat Yogini 13x8ft - Singular Frame - 13�

24x24in Mix media on canvas with 24K gold and silver leaf


etching


“Non-judgment quiets the internal dialogue, and this opens once again the doorway to creativity” – Deepak Chopra Printmaking is an arduous task, and this set of sixty-four etchings proscribes Seema Kohli’s belief in the manifestations of ‘shakti’ or energy. Once upon a time there was a primal womb from which the first ‘shakti’ was created. Going ahead, the primordial energy split into three forms of energy. This course of multiplication and further multiplication has resulted in divine energies and a cult of energies associated with the process of procreation (and death) that is central to the process of renewal and life. Seema’s ode to these forms of energy – each distinctive and with its own, unique properties – stems from her own feminist belief in the self. Within each individual reside several energies that shape a personality, and the struggle for recognition defines one’s life’s goals and quests. To channel these and to ensure their equilibrium becomes an individual choice, yet its impact on the world and its balance is an essential component of the human lexicon.


SCULPTURE bronze


“Write it on your heart you are the most beautiful soul of the universe. Realise it, honour it and celebrate the life� – Amit Ray When Seema Kohli first began to work in bronze, it was with trepidation. Her figures lent themselves easily to adaptation by this new medium, and though it was hard work, she enjoyed the tactile sensation it offered her. The first bronzes were an extension of her painted world. But the extravagance of her new works in bronze seems to suggest a conversion. No longer is she thinking in paint and canvas to convert to bronze, but the medium seems to have a life of its own. It almost seems as though her winged humans and birds can morph into the other, sprouting or losing wings as required, the folds of their garments and the patterns and motifs resulting in a play of voids and solids that is intriguing and mesmerising. The freedom to manipulate the figures and amplify their contours helps her to build a narrative that steers her in a direction away from its painted course.

Sohamsa

48x51x60in Bronze


SCULPTURE fiberglass


Krishna Rasa I 56x42x11in Acrylic on fiberglass with 24K gold leaf


“Unlike a drop of water which loses its identity when it joins the ocean, man does not lose his being in the society in which he lives. Man’s life is independent. He is born not for the development of the society alone, but for the development of his self” – B R Ambedkar The cow is the most endearing symbol of India and its sentient love for all living beings. Seema takes this a step further when she opts to paint on cows made from fibreglass in the manner of old miniatures, but consisting entirely of paintings from her oeuvre and milieu. The joyful, lotus-twined nature of her paintings is in the nature of a trompe l’oeil. Figures nestle in parts of her bovine body – here seated, there in flight, elsewhere in communion. This is the world of nature in harmony with her beings – with no room for strife or conflict. The nature of the colours, a sense of sky, the tapestry of a forest woven into the skein of the fabric of life – these are the motifs she builds into the painted surface. They may not be holy, but these cow sculptures are redolent with the life and culture of an abiding India. Krishna Rasa II 24x12x17in Acrylic on fiberglass with 24K gold leaf


Energy Points 56x42x11in Acrylic on fiberglass with 24K gold leaf


The Golden Womb 24x20x18in Acrylic on fiberglass with 24K gold leaf


Seema Kohli’s works reveal a claiming of feminine subjectivities, an altered concept of feminine sexuality. Her art practice involves various disciplines from drawing, painting, sculptures, installations and performance. The most significant one to emerge out of liner forms and paintings is ‘Performance Art’. Decay, hybridization & transformation: Creating new identity; reshaping belongings; intimacy; a dialogue of matter and memory ,myth all constituting a visual language of her work. “Time” as a factor, is central to her practice, whether it’s a wrapped object or a performance. She uses time as medium, which is extended, assembled and captured in all her media, be it painting, sculptures or installations. The aspects of continuity, repetition, vulnerability, duration, temporality, awareness, situation and public involvement are also inherent qualities that inform her art practice. The process before and after the performance is important and challenging. Since last 30 years of practice Seema Kohli has had over 20 solo show in Venice, Brussels, NY, Dubai, Singapore Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bangalore. Has participated in International Bienniale’s (Venice, Shanghai, India), Art fairs (Hong Kong, Basel, Beijing, Madrid, India) Her work can be seen as public art as murals of 10’ x 100’ at the Delhi International Airport, Mumbai International/Domestic Airport, the Defense Ministry, Tata Residency, Manipal University, ONGC , Tata Center of Excellence and many more. She has had interactive sessions and experiential performances at Venice Biennale 2015, TedEx Chennai 2013, WIN Conference Rome 2012, Prague 2013; NGMA Bangalore 2010, 2012 etc. She has received the Gold at Florence Biennale 2009,1 Premio “Video, the YFLO Women Achiever’s Award, the LKA Lifetime Achievement Award for Women in 2008. Her works are a part of various private and public Museums including Rubin Museum of Art, Museum of Sacred Arts, Kochi Museum of Arts.


Photography : Vishal Harnal Catalogue: Svabhu Kohli Studio Seema Kohli Reshma Chongtham Rameshwar Raikwar Saurav Dubey


The Other Self - Seema Kohli  

Solo Show Catalogue - Presented by Art&Soul

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