When gazing at the artworks of Seema Kohli's upcoming exhibition, Cut From the Same Cloth, one is met with a series of embroidered artworks, drawings, and paintings that emanate a sense of femininity. This essence of femininity is enhanced by the presence of mythical creatures that seem to be an ever-present motif in her art. Her art tends to a certain world-building around sacred womanhood that gives the impression of something vaguely familiar yet unknown, inviting the voyeur to take a step inside.
To truly grasp the quintessence of this exhibition, one must dive into the inner workings of the artist, Seema Kohli, and gain insight into her frame of reference for Cut From the Same Cloth. The defining quality that sets Seema Kohli apart from her contemporaries is her ability to succinctly narrate multifaceted stories, primarily revolving around philosophy and knowledge.
Merging the knowledge of modern times with ancient myths, she creates a smooth dichotomy that flows into her art. The motifs presented in her artworks produce tales that are both imagined and real, blurring the lines of truth and fiction, until one can no longer tell the real from the imagined. Seema Kohli is hailed as a chronicler of narratives that capture the ethos of the past and present.
In her latest work, Cut From the Same Cloth, these themes are artfully highlighted. Seema Kohli brings forth a voyage that blurs the boundaries of myth and reality; of self and other, by weaving intricate, multi-layered narratives infused with modern knowledge and ancient mythical creatures.
The tales presented in Seema Kohli's exhibition are not merely fictional but ravelled with real-life events. Her artworks mirror the intricate nuances of life, giving rise to multiple narratives rooted in her canvases. She has claimed to draw guidance and influence for such pieces from practice of spirituality, seeking guidance on the verses of various saints such as Kabir, Nanak, Namdev, Bulleh Shah, and Shah Hussain. Interestingly, many of the saints were actually weavers, and they taught that the body and soul are woven together. Precisely, this is what Seema Kohli has adopted by depicting the true story of weaving and sewing techniques through the body, life experiences, and teachings of these weavers-saints.
One can gather from this exhibition that certain key motifs are exhibited in her artwork, mainly those centered on fierce women and mythology. Studying India's ancient myths and figures, Seema Kohli retrieves themes of beauty, inner self, and spirituality. What elevates her work even further is her ability to incorporate personal stories and life experiences, a reflection of the knowledge she has accumulated throughout her life. She achieves this through constant experimentation with different art mediums, which is evident in the variety of art she presents.
As I observe her work, a multitude of theories and stories begin to take shape in my mind. There are many mythical creatures that grace her artworks, from powerful fluid dragons breathing fire to women with enormous wings, seemingly hailed as a goddess. One such theory is how these mythological creatures, often imposing and intimidating at first glance, assume a tamed demeanour in the presence of women, thus, presenting women as divine beings. This juxtaposition could symbolise the dichotomy that women often face in their lives; a fierce internal strength contrasting with the gentler, externally perceived persona.
Aside from these features, there are other prominent aspects that shine through Kohli’s work. The use of threads and beads in Seema's work represents India's rich embroidery traditions, which are often overshadowed or hidden from the world. Her incorporation of these elements into her artworks highlights India's history in textiles, dating back to at least the 17th century. From fine fabrics to exceptional embroidery and dyeing skills, Seema Kohli's art fundamentally recognises and celebrates India's textile heritage.
One more feature is the contemplation of time or Kaal, embodied in her piece titled The Tree Of Life. Within this portrayal, she captures the beauty of time, allowing us to perceive, experience, and understand the world as an organic rendering. Combining methods rooted in modernity with influences from the past, Seema births a tale that intersects the realms of history and the present.
Ultimately, Cut From the Same Cloth is a deliberation on feminine cosmic energy and is an ode to the celebration of female forms and power. The women coexisting with spiritual creatures from the past carry the prowess of both creation and destruction. This exhibition explores the depths of femininity and mythology while inviting us to uncover the tales that bind the past and present as well as reality and imagination.
Attend her latest exhibition, which is being held from the 28th of July to the 4th of August, at the Centre For Contemporary Arts - Bikaner House, New Delhi. Find out more here.
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