Art News & Views

Emerging from the Womb of Consciousness

by Dr. Saba Gulraiz

From the very day the world was created, man has been grappling with the intriguing question about the origin of creation and the self and its relation with the eternal spirit that sustains and nourishes the whole universe. This perpetual theme of creation and the self forms the magnum opus of Seema Kohli’s oeuvre. Thematically inspired by the ancient Indian myths, philosophies and traditions, she creates her own lexicon through which she explores the relationship between “Being” and “Consciousness”, between “Oneness of being” and “Manyness of reality”. This conceptual framework appears and reappears in her all major series of works like Tree of Life, Hiranyagarbha or the Golden womb, and Oroborous. These works not only draw the artist’s iconography distinctly but also reveals her own profundity while dealing with these subjects in her art.

Her recent exhibition under the title Synchronicity yet again echoes her relentless quest to apprehend the eternal principles of life and its creation, dissolution and regeneration. The process also leads to the discovery of the self. The exhibition that toured five different cities of the world was first presented at A. Jain Marunouchi gallery, New York from 22nd June to 2nd July 2011, and then travelled to Mudula Conceptio Dubai, Shrishti Art gallery Hyderabad in October and Gallery Time and Space Bangalore in the month of November. The exhibition featured an impressive display of 16 canvases, all exquisitely done in mixed media, along with two bronze sculptures from her Hiranyagarbha and Tree of life series.  The title Synchronicity is quite befitting for the exhibition as each of the works displayed were interconnected with each other in the most meaningful and effective manner. For instance the works like The Divine Tree, The Tree Element, The Tree of Life and Hiranyagarbha, they all dwell upon one world unified reality from which everything emerges and returns to. Tree as a symbol of life and knowledge has often been used by writers and artists, Seema takes this into yet another level of philosophy where its roots represent the unity of existence from which branches of life and consciousness emerge profusely and liberate in all the directions in search of the ultimate knowledge. Seema goes even deeper into the theme of tree of life in her two panel work titled The Divine Tree and The Tree Element where she establishes the relation of the abstract or the unknown and the physical or the known and their relation with the self which is still in search of its own identity. The self can reach the absolute and infinite only by passing from various stages of the relative and finite.

Seema’s metaphoric world abounds with many other symbols which are communicated through the use of plural imagery of bird, lotus and locks of hair. She incessantly uses purple lotuses as the symbol of divinity and mysticism, while the birds and the curly locks of flowing hair symbolize liberation. In between these images that also have a decorative character, female or also the feminine self in her multiple manifestations is the sole protagonist who celebrates her powers of procreation, wisdom and empowerment. Many works like Shakti, Pristine Knowledge, The Immortal Mother and Eternal Mother on the show exhibited these feminine powers. Shakti, one of her most engaging works, reflects these attributes of a female in a more articulate way where the meditative female figure in the center is the image of power that empowers the whole world, while a multitude of miniature images encircled around this center figure as a wreath are the manifestations of the same sacred energy. The centrality of the figure is also indicative of ‘Universal Axis’.

Seema Kohli’s sacred gardens are luxuriantly emblazoned with motifs crocheted into a finery of golds, silvers, reds and blues. There is no empty space, as she believes, “There is no place called shunya or empty even that Emptiness occupies a space.” Her spaces are always suffused with opulently used gold (symbol of purity and riches) that adds warmth and glamour to her expressions. Her exuberant-reds impart vitality, while the blues lead a viewer into the inner provenances of the artist and echoes the dreams and aspirations of a feminine self. Stretched arms of her aerodynamic faceless figures, their flowing locks and garments invoke the desire of a heart searching for its archangelic love. Works mounted in the exhibition were carved out from these dream-like inner spaces that reveal the true imaginative/creative self.

The show, travelling through distant places/spaces, finally culminated at Gallery Time and Space but the creative journey of the artist that also moves in between time and space to find the perennial questions of life and creativity has no culmination point, no final destination.

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