Art for the soul
With Anima, Jyoti Naoki Eri, an Aurovillian artist, uses vessels as media to establish that everything is in eternal motion
Vessels, of all sizes and shapes, are strewn across the naturally-lit, spacious Centre d’Art in Auroville. While some of them are etched on canvases of striking shades of red, blue and green, others are sculpted and placed on different corners of the gallery. These very contraptions, carry much more than any tangible material, according to Aurovillean artist of Japanese origin, Jyoti Naoki Eri. Which is why, his body of work, interestingly titled Anima drives toward one point: vessels are one of mankind’s earliest creations and were considered an extension of the human body.
Jyoti, who hails from Kyoto, tells us more about the series and its origin. Edited excerpts:
What is it that made you move from Japan to India? Is there a story here?
● I was a professional sculptor in Kyoto. I grew up among artists and it was very natural for me to decide to become an artist. Since my family was deeply connected with Buddhism, my interest grew in Indian spirituality. I decided to travel to Nepal, Tibet and India. It was totally by chance that I discovered Auroville when out of curiosity I decided to visit for just two hours. My experience in Matrimandir made me decide to stay longer than I had initially planned. After a month or so, I felt it was the place for me to live, work and practise spirituality that is well-connected with everyday life. Japan is my fatherland and India my motherland.
How has Kyoto influenced your work? I read that you had received training in traditional Japanese art. Can you elaborate on this?
● Beauty and harmony are of primary importance in the Japanese way of life. In Kyoto, one can still find buildings from a few centuries ago, in almost every block of the city. After graduating from high school most of my friends chose to go to art college. I found it rather conventional; I chose to become a disciple of a master sculptor to pursue a professional career straight away. I moved to Tokyo when I was 18. Pursuing a professional career in a traditional way was rather lonely. But it nourished my artistic experience both in knowledge and technicalities. What I considered most important was not the knowledge of my master but his presence. I understood why it was important to have apprenticeships. While this tradition of apprenticeship exists all over the world, it is particularly strong in Asian countries.
What was the idea behind Anima and when did you initially conceptualise this exhibit?
● I always seek an identical link between India and Japan. Anima means ‘soul’ in Latin but it also describes something which is permanently in motion. Before the arrival of Buddhism in Japan, Animism was the main spiritual practice. Animism can be defined as Nature worship and/or pantheism. Trees, rocks, mountains and streams are all manifestations of a higher power. Why do we need to carve rocks and trees to shape the gods when everything is divine in its essence? This evolutionary process in spiritual manifestation is the core theme of my creation. Everything is in the eternal process. All is in movement. Anima.
Vessels are seen strewn across and they also appear in your canvases. What do they signify?
● To replace the palms to hold water and to store water or grains, or use it for fermentation (transformation), man used vessels. There was no separation between the object and subject in the earlier days according to me.
When I visited Varanasi and saw people taking water from the Ganges and releasing it to the holy river in the early morning ritual, it struck me deeply. I saw the vessels as the human body and water as the soul or our emotions. Everything comes and goes, and by acknowledging them we become part of the process. This was the first inspirational moment to start this series.
Mannequins are also vessels in the modern world. It holds the imagination of fashion designers. I like watching how fashion has evolved in the last few centuries. To me, fashion is one of the most fascinating means to learn about human beings. I practice the Japanese tea ceremony, where some tea bowls are used and passed from master to disciples over centuries.
Can you elaborate on the colour scheme used in this series?
● I explore different colour schemes in the series. It is my belief there is no taboo in terms of relation of colours. Like in our daily life, we hold layers of emotions and some are brighter than others.
Are grids and patterns something specific to this series? If so, what was the idea behind such definitive shapes?
● Grids or geometric structures can be seen as limitations of the world. They may be obstacles, but we cannot sense freedom without accepting these limitations. I like to use grids and geometric lines as elements but they show something much larger than lines. It is a question of balance. Spontaneous brush strokes are beautiful, but when they meet with the grid or geometric lines in a harmonious way, they enhance the beauty of each other.
Anima will be on display till January 4 at Centre d’Art, Auroville. Timings: 10.30 am to 12 pm and 3.30 to 5 pm. Sunday visits are by appointment only.