An image for a poem
Curator Georgina Maddox and Artistic Director Ashwini Pal Bahadur came together last week to showcase a brilliant exhibition at Bikaner House.
The event was the launch of a book of poems, 'One Soul many Lives' by Laxmana Dalmia, poet, filmmaker and custodian of IPTA (Indian People's Theatre Association). The poems that flanked the art works showed amply that curator Georgina is not just a fly by night type, but a historian in the making. Some works were created for Dalmia's poems and some works were picked up because they had an uncanny connection to the imagery provided by Dalmia.
Begin with Arpana Caur's stunning canvas, 'Between Dualities', that seemed to be the opening page of a flashback in time. The rounded surreal figures of her large canvas leap out, while the second figure lies on the bottom; it is the larger female figure that sits and threads a needle. Caur makes you think of events that swim across dark expanses or lie motionless. Her female figure transcends time, while she seems to tell us stories of the worlds that become like a time warp, caught between earth and sky, reality and longing.
And then are those who mark time and destiny, like the female figure of the brilliant Gogi Saroj Pal, while Ved Nayyar's 'Nayika' speaks to us about literature and life and poetry. Yet another eye-grabber is Sanjay Das' photograph of an inner temple scene in Nepal.
"The image of butter lamp was taken inside a room of a monastery in the premises of Boudhanath Stupa in Nepal," says Das. It is believed that offering butter lamps is the most powerful offering because their light symbolises wisdom of the awakened mind, dispelling the darkness of delusion and mental obscurations. Butter lamps are used in nearly every Tibetan temple, household and altar. The contrasting tones in luminosity amidst the darkness is a surreal encounter.
Seema Kohli's 'Tree of life' sits in another smaller room and at once brings back feminine fables and the momentousness of myth. "I see the 'Tree of Life' in the form of Aradhnareshwar," states Kohli. The display of the continuous balance of energies is there in nature. It gives us the basic principles of existence with equality."
It is easy to see the effects of Indian miniature art on Kohli's translation of the tree of life, as she weaves in the simple figuration of the feminine fervour within the realism and the presence of light, and shade to the stylistic treatment of trees, branches and canopy with the use of curved contours and finer detailing.
Shampa Das's canvas speaks of multiple references - of the overlapping of the spirit of being. Within her many elements, we can glimpse Indian and Tibetan and Buddhist imagery. The lotuses make us think of Tibetan sacred art, especially the symbology of Vajrayana Buddhism. Chants in Tibetan and Tankri text, seen inscribed on bells, prayer wheels and rock walls, make their way into her paintings, lending them a totemic quality. The circle, depicting the mandala or the universe, and the pink lotus are some of the striking imagery in her work that gives it an inner sense of poise.
Maddox mingles mediums and contours and contexts to create an album of works that celebrate the essence of life and adds strength and vitality to the book of poems.