Chan­nelis­ing The In­ner Shakti

Veteran artist Seema Kohli’s lat­est show­ing, What a Body Re­mem­bers, at the Tao Art Gallery, Mum­bai, ex­plores the re­flec­tive nu­ances of the un­bri­dled fem­i­nine en­ergy


The vi­brant works by Seema Kohli are a re­flec­tion of the artist’s mem­o­ries—the im­ages, ob­jects, en­vi­ron­ment and peo­ple—that have pro­foundly in­flu­enced her over the years. The can­vases are based on the height­ened state of life, which, the artist feels, we are all as­pir­ing for. “My colours are re­flec­tive of the in­ner peace and joy, vi­brat­ing with the rhythm and joy of life,” avers Seema. Seema’s pri­mary artis­tic con­cern has al­ways been the rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the quintessen­tial fem­i­nine dy­namism, tra­di­tion­ally de­picted as Devi, Shakti, Yogini or Ma­trika. Seema’s works chal­lenge this chaotic ma­trix—the dance of fem­i­nine en­er­gies—and con­vey within that a unique tran­quil­lity. For her, this Shakti is not just spir­i­tual, but also em­bod­ies be­lief, knowl­edge or even in­ner con­vic­tion. In the new body of works, Seema re­mains com­mit­ted to the idea of fem­i­nine en­er­gies and ques­tions the im­por­tance to rep­re­sent them. “My paint­ings are nar­ra­tives of women at some level, their lives, their vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties, and also, most sig­nif­i­cantly, their strength. When they pop­u­late my paint­ings, one can see the ex­pres­sion of the power of the fem­i­nine col­lec­tive, of women com­ing to­gether to over­come the evil that con­fronts them. In these sto­ries, I also dis­cern my own space as a woman in the larger world out­side,” she says. The 35 zinc plate etch­ings on pa­per are ti­tled Mem­oirs. These are a col­lec­tion of works done by the artist over a pe­riod of sev­eral years. They are in­flu­enced by her mem­o­ries of the im­ages, ob­jects, en­vi­ron­ment and peo­ple which have had a deep im­pact on her per­son­al­ity. Art hap­pened to Seema early on in life. Hav­ing stud­ied ap­plied art at South Delhi Polytech­nic af­ter grad­u­at­ing in Phi­los­o­phy from Mi­randa House, Seema honed her skills at the Triveni Kala Sangam un­der the guid­ance of Ramesh­war Broota for more than 10 years. For some­one rooted in spir­i­tu­al­ity and the fine aes­thet­ics of art, Seema ac­knowl­edges the fact that the changes in the world, like the emer­gence of tech­nol­ogy, has changed the way art is per­ceived to­day. “The dig­i­tal medium is the new way of con­cep­tu­al­is­ing and ren­der­ing art. But, each medium has its in­flu­ences. I have not been able to work with the dig­i­tal medium other than in videos till now,” she states, adding that her hand has been her gad­get, and her mind, her data bank. Seema is one of the few artists who has man­aged to draw a clean line be­tween com­merce and cre­ative ethics. Though she agrees that all mar­kets are com­merce driven, she in­sists that art hap­pens in the precincts of an artist’s

stu­dio and hence for an artist, it is a bi­o­log­i­cal need to cre­ate. “The mo­ment it (the cre­ation) reaches a gallery, it gains com­mer­cial value. So, com­merce does not af­fect me as an artist di­rectly,” says Seema, nam­ing life it­self her in­spi­ra­tion. The in­tan­gi­bles around her—the peo­ple, na­ture, in­spire Seema. “You just have to be silent within all the chores of daily life for it to re­flect in your work,” she says philo­soph­i­cally. A spir­i­tual per­son at heart, Seema is a be­liever in the per­ma­nence of the spirit. “For me, first there was faith, then be­lief in that faith. Re­as­sur­ance of faith within a group be­comes re­li­gion, which re­sults in the show of strength by politi­cis­ing it. Spirit doesn’t need any of this. Just be­lief is enough,” she rea­sons. Mean­while, the con­sum­mate artist is a firm be­liever in the phi­los­o­phy that ev­ery­thing emerged from the fem­i­nine and that the cel­e­bra­tion of life it­self is fem­i­nine. “Of course, there is a bal­ance of en­er­gies, there is a role of both the gen­ders in the cre­ation

of the uni­verse and the life around us at every level,” she rea­sons, cit­ing ex­am­ples of how Yin and Yang, pos­i­tive and neg­a­tive, male and fe­male ex­ist to­gether. A fem­i­nist at heart, Seema pro­fesses a new era of fem­i­nism—of be­liev­ing in your­self as a woman for the sake of it, and not nec­es­sar­ily as a means of com­pe­ti­tion with the other sex. She ex­horts women to recog­nise their in­ner power and ex­ert one­self as women. She shares an ex­cerpt from one of her nar­ra­tives: In Si­lence the Se­crets Speak ‘Cel­e­brate... for all those women who have a voice and who do not have one, for they un­der­stood the si­lence... cel­e­brate.... for all those women who walk the un­trod­den path... true or false... moral or im­moral good or bad for what is for one is not for an­other... cel­e­brate... for all those women ex­plor­ing, un­earthing, in the rhythm to the smile and laugh­ter of their soul cel­e­brate... to be­ing a woman not only in body but in soul.’ In­ter­est­ingly, this nar­ra­tive will form a part of a lay­ered stage per­for­mance re­counted by the artist at the Royal Opera House, Mum­bai, in the com­ing month. The riv­et­ing show will en­tail a po­etry/spo­ken word per­for­mance wo­ven to­gether with a dance piece and ac­com­pa­nied with an en­sem­ble of artists on the piano, cello and the vi­olin.

Seema with Sha­bana Azmi and Javed Akhtar, who in­au­gu­rated her show


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