The Casa Diaries

Last week I had the team of the Little Black Book,Delhi come home.I  enjoyed every bit of their visit as well as showing them around our home and studio.The article published gives such an amazing window into our homes.It’s like you are actually walking through each corridor and room ,taking note of all the  details of our passionate collections. Rushil Khokhar,the photographer made me so comfortable at my own place!I wish to congratulate the team of LBB  and my best wishes to continue the good work.

Here’s sharing with you the article published on Little Black Book by Suchita S.

The Casa Diaries | Seema Kohli

By Suchita S.

I’ve grown up flitting through pages of Elle Decor, Architectural Digest and Inside Outside. I’ve seen pages of chandeliers – shining on the opulence of marbled floors – embroidered carpets, mirror cabinets and plush sofa settings. A few pages later, there would be a landscape shot of a red-brick and sandstone house, lit up with copper lanterns, and accessorized with effervescent upholstery, brass urns with scattered petals and tea-light candles. They looked beautiful, no doubt… but see, there’s a house and then there’s a home; And even glossy pages of magazines can’t photoshop personality into a space. Disillusioned by this farcical interpretation of what a living space ought to be like, I sort of, subconsciously, set out to discover beautiful homes in Delhi. Homes that are lived in, which embody the home-makers and resonate the life and times of a family, a couple, a person – whatever the case may be.

Enter, Seema Kohli’s three story home, studio and labour of love. A dark, solid-wood door opens to indigo walls, which I imagine vary in hue with the changing hours of the day. Auburn flooring and yellow railings, framed photographs, canvases and artwork accompany you all the way to the third floor – a sprawling space lit up by white and natural light. There’s an easel with a painting in a corner, set in front of rows and rows of paint boxes, brushes, and a sink that bears splatters of paint. She’s working on a few small canvases on an artists table, evident in dashes of color through which dark polish of the table top appears. A warm welcome and a few pleasantries later, our guided tour of her home begins.

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{Seema’s studio}

“We just try to pick up things that we like, and they become a part of our existence…” She tells us as we make our way to the second floor of the house – her daughter Anshika’s work space and bedroom. A Chinese camphor wood chest, set against a warrior red separates these two spaces, which have contrasting decors. A double door entrance opens into her study; an ingenious space, filled with literature and coffee table books. Windows open to a curtain of creepers, making you feel like you’re far away from city life, and cordoned off in a world of your own. Anshika’s bedroom, on the other hand, is a mellow yellow, with a very interesting open-bulb light fixture. There’s a little balcony outside, which has bright yellow patio chairs and a table, recently ordered from Urban Ladder, and a cock-a-doodle chime that Seema bought for her from Bali.

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{Anshika’s studio and corridor}

Next, we made our way down the staircase to the first floor of their home. There’s a calming creativity about the space, despite it bursting with art. Nooks of the staircase have bronze sculptures made by Seema, and the now deep-sea blue walls have an assortment of frames and mediums of art on display. There are sketches, works in watercolor, and oil on canvas, and there’s Anshika’s photography, including this very interesting image.

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{The walk up the staircase | Blue walls are filled with works of art by Seema and other artists as well, and photographs by Anshika and those collected by the family}

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{Beauty lies in the details; staying true to this, you’ll find that every nook of the house is embedded with something interesting. For instance, each door handle is sculpted differently}

“It took us 3 years to build our home… we started constructing it in 2008 and shifted in in 2010.” Over the years, each of them has collected trinkets, memorabilia and pieces with a story. They’ve all found a spot somewhere in Seema’s home – on the walls, kitchen counter, cabinets… and especially on a vintage table that sits beautifully in the corridor between her and her son’s bedroom. It’s an open treasure chest, with little murals and sculptures, religious figurines and gods from many faiths. “The Mary you see is from Goa, a friend got a Jesus {statue} from Italy… then there’s something from Florence. This Yum & Yumi are from Darjeeling. And the Hanuman is from Pondicherry.” She points at scattered items, and we travel the world with each of them. The shaft that runs through the 3rd to the 1st floor comes to a close here. Hanging from the ceiling, at different heights, are bronze finished, star-shaped lights, which throw light on a stunning collection of antique and new Tanjore paintings. “This installation’s been done by Anshika… I think she picked up these lights from Janpath or something. She wanted to create a feeling of stars falling from the skies… they look so dreamy at night.”


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{Stars falling from the sky; a light installation by Anshika}

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{This table was sourced from Jodhpur; figurines placed on this can be traced back to the family’s travels all over India & the world.}

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{Seema’s room and the corridor on her floor | “My room’s most furniture from Fabinida, and shelves from Jodhpur. Anshika had specially gone to Jodhpur to collect things for our home, and most of the big pieces have come from there. The bed is from Country Inn… they have good beds. You’ll find bookshelves everywhere, and for all three of them. We read a lot as a family!”}

Svabhu’s room, a compelling contrast to his mum and sister’s rooms, is a fairly modern ensemble. Powder blue and white walls have framed prints designed by him. There’s a lot of playfulness in the space; toy planes from his childhood hang from a corner, and a wooden scrabble case, seated on a cross table, opens into a case of collectibles, including his very first camera.

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{For his balcony, Svabhu created a grid, and old glass bottles and mason jars hold plants and foliage.}

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{An old scrabble case, I suppose, has been used to create a corner table and storage for all his collectibles.}

“The theme, per se, for our home was to make it look our own…” Seema tells us, pointing at a wall painting done by her son in her drawing room. ”The last time he was here, growing a little tired of the white wall, he mixed together some colors and created this on the wall.” Silhouettes of blue make splashes on the wall and corners of the ceiling. “He said that now it’s looking a little messy and nice. It’s a statement!” The mural next to Svabhu’s creation is the handwork of tribal artists from Jabalpur. They stayed with the family for almost 2 weeks. “They painted and they sang as they created this. It’s got to be one of the most beautiful experiences we’ve had.”

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{Wall art | Created by artists from Jabalpur; and Svabhu’s latest creation}

Through the course of our walk around her home, we saw displays of gods from many different faiths. Why so many gods, I questioned. “I think my art and my practice are about faith and beliefs, you know… that’s why instead of making it a religious space, I’ve made a spiritual space – but so many faiths together. I feel it all comes down to the same thing.”

The final stretch of the staircase open into a basement, which serves as a mini-home-theatre and a space for Seema to store a selection of her work. The first artwork we see is this 8ftx5ft display called ‘Kali‘. The wall space next to that is shrouded by masks in myriad shapes, sizes and colors. They’ve been collected over 15 years and from all corners of the world –  South Africa, Badrinath, China, Burma, Indonesia, Bali, Florence, and there’s one of Seema and Anshika made by Seema herself.

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{“I think my art and my practice is about faith and beliefs, you know.. that’s why instead of making it a religious space, I’ve made a spiritual space- but so many faiths together. I feel it all comes down to the same thing.” Seema Kohli}

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{Pictured here: the basement which works as an emporium of her art and a screening space.}

So what makes her fall in love with her home over and over again? “It’s not the space, but it’s what you put into it. In our earlier house, which was a simple three bedroom house, we’d colored it in different colors, and because the three of us are very creative, there was always a dialogue being created through our approach towards designing… I feel a space becomes your own when you share yourself with that space. You have to pour out something to get something back from it.”

 {Photography Credits | Rushil Khokhar}

-See more at: http://littleblackbookdelhi.com/2013/09/casa-diaries-seema-kohli/#sthash.sWbqdKXw.dpuf

Kabir and Me

In March 2012, I had the great opportunity to attend Kabir Yatra -the traveling festival celebrating the message of Saint Kabir across villages in Malwa,Madhya Pradesh.The Yatra spearheaded by Prahlad Singh Tipanya,the most popular folk singer of Malwa is a part of a larger movement called The Kabir Project.

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On my way to Lunya Khedi

The village of Lunya Khedi is  two hours from  Ujjain in the interior of Madhya Pradesh . It’s still in a time warp with electricity that runs for a day or two and water supply which is irregular.It was such a different experience to immerse myself in such a place for  over four days.

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Kabir Panthis

The  Yatra traversed many villages in and around Lunya Khedi like Maksi, Bharua, Jhambva, Ujjain, Indore spreading the message of Kabir far and wide.The participants of the Yatra were a conglomeration of people from  nearby villagers,folk singers,saints, Kabir Panthis and city dwellers like me.The singing would start at night and the boisterous sound of folk music would come to an halt only at around 3 or 4 in the morning.I was mesmerized by the message and spirit of Kabir that was so beautifully captured by the Kabir singers like Vidya Rao, Bindhu and Vedanth, Parvaty Baul, Shabnam Virmani, Kaluram ji, Mukhtiyar Ali and many others.After a good night’s sleep in the village, we would be woken up with the aromatic smell of hot jalebis and poha.

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The Kabir Community Utensils

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Dancing Feet

It was through the simple,rustic atmosphere that the mood was created with everyone is dancing,singing and enjoying themselves.

Kabir has become  synonymous with  secular ideas and the spirit of the place is so enchanting and beautiful.Sahib ne bhaang pilayi..ankhiyon main lali chayie..The experience is still lingering and haunting me.

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Prahlad Tipanya and Shabnam Virmani in rehearsal

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Back Drop designed by students of Parvaty Baul at Shantiniketan.

Learning the Tanpura from Prahlad Tipanya ji

Me learning Tanpura from Prahladji.

Ardhanarishawar

My art revolves around the idea of feminine identity and energies.The concept of Ardhanarishawar embodies my idea of harmony and balance in the cosmos.I feel all people have a feminine side, they garb themselves in different cloaks as man and woman, but they’re both very important to balance the yin-yang of all life and energies.

I incorporate myths and imagery into lives. It is we who give them names,make them into  gods, or superhumans, but these are forces of nature without a name, faceless, because they reside within us. Ardhanarishawar resides in all of us.

With this thought,let me share a few lines I wrote some months back.

Not some hybrid creature, but man and woman united as symbols who complete the circle and the cycle of life.
Conditioned by roles, perhaps… The man, keeper of the skies, king of the universe, a symbol of strength.
The woman, domestic goddess, the nurturer, queen of the world, a symbol of all that is gentle and good.
But the woman, terrible in her wrath, a destroyer of worlds, just like Shiva, the tandav dancer, tender lover.
Not one without the other.
A complete circle of harmony.
Aligned with nature.
Nature itself.
Now benign, now harsh, now terrible.
Nature. Nurturer.
These are my stories

Seema Kohli
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Shakti

I was very excited to hear of the recent show Goddess, Lion, Peasant, Priest: Modern and Contemporary Indian Art featuring work from Shelley and Donald Rubin Private Collection at TCNJ Art Gallery, New Jersey, USA which features four of my works.Recently,my new work called Shakti was acquired by the Rubin’s Museum.I want to share with you my work as well my thoughts in creating these works.

Shakti  evolved from the belief that Shakti or that feminine power which is regenerating everything positively around is as apparent and expressive in the cities as in the forests. We do not have to go anywhere to understand it- it is right here where we are. Riding a cruising yellow lion with a trishula,Shakti is taking us to a totally different levels of spiritual awareness. When she rides the white lion with stars and eyes embedded on her, she is in total control and balance riding the male energy i.e. symbolically represented by lion. When there is complete harmony between Purush and Maya, it results in higher experiences whether they are worldly or spiritual. There are also blood thirsty Dakani’s (expressing mythological aspect) all around savoring the blood of the demon Raktbija, symbolically helping us in overcoming our innumerable desires. The play or the “Khel” that is “the Shakti” is the creator and the destroyer of these desires.

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Shakti,2013, Mix media,acrylics,24ct gold and silver leaf,24”x 48.”

From the collection of Rubin Museum,New York,USA.

Dots,Lines and Some Chai

The thought of creating a blog has been on my mind for the longest time.To share not only my works with you guys but the thought and the concept behind them,to show  not only the finished artwork but also the process that is often missed.

The mystery of colour has always fascinated me.A dot expanding into a line ,taking shape on its own and assuming a movement in your imagination is so intriguing!Drawing has always been my first love,my  unrivaled passion.But I feel confident now to make transition from paper,canvas,sculpture to using my own body as a primary means of expression.Through my blog I want to introduce you to my latest works,project,travels and thought experiments.I have waited for this so long.

And finally it’s here!

So,here’s giving you a peek into the life and works of an artist.I hope you enjoy reading it!