The Hindu

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.

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