A Night With Seema Kohli and ‘What A Body Remembers’

Seema Kohli

Seema Kohli’s exhibition, ‘What A Body Remembers’ curated by Lina Vincent Sunish opened at the TAO Art Gallery, Worli, on Wednesday 4th April. Inaugurated by Javed Akhtar and Shabana Azmi the selected works on display are in diverse mediums connected by a singular theme of the body and its relationship with the cosmos. Her works range from varied shapes of canvas painting to chai stains on the floor to ceiling length sheets, and from jute and thread work to painted sculptures of cows. She believes them to be “repositories of story-telling without the rigid boundaries of a frame, the rounded contours creating an organic pathway for the eye to follow.”

The artist depicts the processes that go on within and without us. Through years of extensive work, Seema has developed a unique language, a visual vocabulary that captures the changing statuses of the bodily, cognitive, and subconscious states as she renders both imagined and abstract impressions. She brings back memories through her exploration of the clash between objectivity and subjectivity, reality and fantasy, sacred and secular, performance and documentation and action and passivity through each work a narrative comes to life.

Sanjana Shah, co-owner of the gallery tells us about her favourite piece, the golden womb rendered in tea stains and ink. “What I love is the woman at the centre and energy that she radiates. With Seema’s work, all of it is women-centric. That’s the beauty of it and the positivity.”

Sanjana also shares that even the smallest of Seema’s paintings take her a month and that she spent three years putting this series together.

ShethePeople.TV interacted with Seema on her art and ‘What A Body Remembers’.

It is incredible how you have managed to incorporate this degree of detail in all of your work. How are you able to create works this detailed. What inspired you to?

“God lies in small things, Right? I always feel that there are so many intricacies in the world. There is no space that is actually empty. Whatever I do, everything seems to be connected, even if we look at the white wall it is not empty. There is a shadow that works on it. The detail that is around us, even the floor is not empty. There is a texture to everything. I somehow bring about stories like they are in our minds. There are different fragmented ideas, but when they come together in our mind they are one. That is how I look at art and that is how my work organically develops.

How do the storylines for your works develop? Do you usually have a pre-meditated idea of a narrative to each piece? How spontaneous is your process?

It’s never, never, never planned. I was doing this work (she points over to one of her paintings) I first drew a figure and then turned into a full river, and in this painting, I decided on the spur of the moment to paint water much differently than in the other works, so it came out differently. Thus, my images keep evolving and you keep making other things around it. They don’t have one single story, they have different stories weaved in together. Lots of people working in a very monotonous way, which is fine, but I find each sequence of our existence is connected to another. There is no sequence which is just cut off.

Lots of people working in a very monotonous way, which is fine, but I find each sequence of our existence is connected to another. There is no sequence which is just cut off.

I’ve noticed that all your paintings are women-centric. It seems to be a very strong force in your art. Can you tell us what inspired that?

The celebration of life is feminine. It cannot be anything else because that has the power to procreate and recreate, and positively so. Wisdom is constantly moving ahead and there is an expansion in everything. It can happen only if it has a womb.

Can you tell us what this series, ‘What A Body Remembers’ in particular means to you in the course of your career as an artist?

Yes, everything emerges out of the golden womb. Each one of us is a part of it and each one of us is connected to the same umbilical cord to the same womb, we share the same space, so therefore there is no other. There is no one else than us as a collective.

Seema’s works in ‘What a Body Remembers’ is particularly empowering, while also compelling the viewer to look inwards for strength and imagination derived from the vast universe. Her theory of connecting with oneself as connecting with the universe is experienced through each of her works. The women she renders exude a vibrancy that is strong, untameable, imaginative, creative and bold.

Her exhibition is on until the 4th May at Tao Art Gallery.

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Akansha Gupta is an intern with SheThePeople.TV