The Spirit of the Self
Translating the Spirit of the Self seemed best done in the most primordial of mediums – Charcoal.
In mapping the real and the perceived contours of the body, I decided to engage the paper in a free-spirited manner. The medium allowed for a freedom of engagement and to transfer my thoughts with the immediacy it demanded I believe, as William Kentridge said, ‘Drawing is a non verbal thinking process.’ As the thoughts and ideas flow on paper , I also have the flexibility to change and recompose at will.
The Spirit of the Self is not static, but always dynamic and transitional. It races past the body, beyond the limits of personal freedom into the realm of the imagined, which finally is the very source of its strength.
The feminine body has always been a discursive entity for me that generated inquisitions into gender politics within a strong patriarchal society like ours. It was necessary to understand the psyche of a society by not just studying the lives of women in the present times but also researching into the legacy of mythology and historical characters in the form of early photographic evidence. Through all this my objective has been to trace the origins of societal dichotomy towards the feminine gender. A continued referencing of imageries from various sources like miniature paintings, early prints and archived old photographs allowed me to address the changing notions of feminine identity, empowerment, sexuality and tolerance of the same.
A woman’s body, the muse, has often been a resourceful subject inspiring prose, poetry, paintings and sculpture. Her beauty has been instrumental in evoking heightened emotions like love, envy to hatred. It has ignited war and alternatively been the solace for distraught soul, a machinery to hold and share love, a container of germinating life. At times it is an object of amorous ecstasy, at times it is the source of and yet in its malevolent form it is like an acidic container of venom that spills over and threatens to devour the world in angst. A woman is neither a pretty wallflower nor a horrific entity…no human ever can be so. They are stages of the flowering of a personality, a human trait, which is to be found in all humans irrespective of gender. One cannot simply categorize or label the characteristic of a particular gender, I feel and hence I object to classifications of any kinds, when judging a character – male or female. A rose too has the violence of a thorn, and a pitcher plant the enthralling beauty of colour and form. Nature exists beyond the pendulous measures of right and wrong, beautiful and repulsive, sacred and profane. In all of my work the impregnated woman is a recurrent subject of introspection. She is the symbol of burgeoning and continuous life. At times she overflows with life and at times she zips herself up and restrains this flow of progeny as a mark of protest in a world soaked in violence, that expects mothers to breed children so they may be slain at the podium of world politics and its resultant violence. At times she wears her femininity like an armor and at other times she stands ramrod straight as the omnipresent vigilant mother. The shell becomes a strong metaphor of home and femininity, reflecting the life of a woman who time to time emerges out and then withdraws within its sanctity. She hides her emotions and sexuality, nurtures life and mends her physical and metaphysical self within this personal space of love, lust and memories.
This curatorial work had many intentions. The first was to explain that art does not confine itself to any given space alone, it has the power to connect people and communities, and evokes in all peoples a sense of understanding and creativity. The other was to become a tool for self-expression and healing. By studying the works of Priti Vadakkath and Moutushi Chakraborty through artist talks and discussions, students of St Teresa’s College and Sacred Heart College, Kochi were able to delve deep into the nuances of visual art practice. By understanding the emotional and intellectual reasoning’s of the artists, they were provided an opportunity to emotionally and mindfully connect to visual art from a whole new perspective. The three-month project also aimed to connect various art practices and thus, using their learning of the self; students used theatre as a tool for self-discovery and expression. I have aimed to provide a platform, which proves that art is a multi-dimensional phenomenon that evokes in human beings a creative spirit. One, which has the power to shake the very reason for existence and brings forth a new spirit of living that is unadulterated by the power of a previous experience of negativity. – Tanya Abraham, Curator.