Art for the soul

With An­ima, Jy­oti Naoki Eri, an Aurovil­lian artist, uses ves­sels as me­dia to es­tab­lish that ev­ery­thing is in eter­nal mo­tion

The Hindu - - SPECTRUM -

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.

■ SPE­CIAL AR­RANGE­MENT

Grids ga­lore Jy­oti Naoki Eri hails from Ky­oto and has been liv­ing in Auroville since 2004

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