INSTALLATION CUTTING CHAI

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installation view at Nehru park, New Delhi

‘Cutting‬ chai’ the phrase originated in ‪Mumbai‬, when one cup of Chai was shared between more than one person. Hence the idea of dialogue, bonding, communication, community…. sharing…here it is as an installation …for me art derives from life and art is connected with living…but is this art? What is art? Who decides what is art? 997089_10153251934185625_5697166505762680070_n
The installation is made of metal servers traditionally called “Cheekka’ which are used to serve tea in rural areas. Chai being the common accomplice to any conversation in all strata holds a very recognizable space.
In fact while painting for me, it’s a medium between my painting and me. It helps me holding my conversation intact with my canvas and me. I have used teacups and the idea of tea as a means of introspection and even leading to final liberation. It holds and important dialogue between me and my inner, my outer, my social and my spiritual world.
Hence, the need for this installation.

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1) The readymade material involves the whole idea of installation. That is the root of the concept, as when I saw it as a Diwali gift to be distributed I wanted to use it for my artwork. I feel already available new or used material connects the installation to the present and also to the common man.
2) Its rustic in material not in design. It’s rural in nature as its used by the common man from the lowest strata to the higher up. As the design of a “Cheeka” is extremely contemporary in utility. Without any complications it serves the purpose and has been around for almost a little less than a century, since the idea of “chai” and the “chai dukan” came about.

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3) The artist in me came around as I feel that chai holds many conversations, dialogues and intimate spaces. It is a part of my working space and also I have paid an ode to it by making tea cups, tea glasses, kettles. They help me hold a conversation in my outer space with society, my inner space with my canvas and the most inner silent spaces while i interrogate and introspect with in. My most resent work for my collateral at Kochi Biennial as called “a storm in my tea cup”. I even Have a tree of liberation with teacups hanging instead of leaves. This work was done almost 8 years back. “Chai” is also the first thing with which we start our day, new beginnings, whichever class of strata we belong to.
“Cheeka” also implies that the person is not alone and with company.

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Material: metal wire, glass, acrylic color and tea lights.

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Seema Kohli’s art practice involves various disciplines from drawing, painting, sculptures, installations and performance. The most significant one to emerge is ‘Performance Art’. Decay, hybridization & transformation: Creating new identity; reshaping belongings; intimacy; a dialogue of matter and memory all these constitute the language of her work. “Time” as a factor, is central to her practice, whether it’s a wrapped object or a performance. She uses time as medium, which is extended, assembled and captured. The aspects of continuity, repetition, vulnerability, duration, temporality, awareness, situation and public involvement are also inherent qualities that inform her art practice. The process before and after the performance/installation is equally important and challenging.
Seema Kohli
February 2015

This idea belongs to the copyright of the artist and should not used in any form or permutation without the knowledge, consent and remuneration due to the 19292_10153086277627597_6985000632826499166_nartist.

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India Art Fair 2015

Works by seema kohli

at

india-art-fair-2015-logo

29th January – 1st February, 2015
Venue – India Art Fair 2015, NSIC Exhibition Grounds,
Okhla industrial Estate,
New Delhi.

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Gallerie Navya Presents
“A Moment in time”The Golden Womb Reclaimed
Works by
Seema KohliBooth: E7
The Golden Womb Reclaimed
From ashes to womb to dust
Once upon a time, a long while ago, there was a womb.
A golden womb. The Hiranyagarbha.
From the Hiranyagrabha emerged the sun and the moon,
the planets and the stars, and a conscious universe was born.
The golden womb: from it emerged the five elements,
air , water, fire, earth and ether.
A universe that was neither male nor female. But as it took form, it led to the birth of Maya, or illusion.
  • Excerpts from “I AM” by Seema Kohli, 2012
reclaim

Krishna Krishna Raas, 36 in x 60 in, Mixed media on canvas with 24 ct gold and silver leaf, 2014

In the ancient India scriptures of Yajur Veda, Hiranyagarbha or the Golden Womb is the primordial and eternal cosmic womb that nourishes, generates, and revives the cosmic order. Hiranyagarbha is that receptacle in which all the becoming takes place. As a space within a space, it encompasses the suns, moons, stars, and all universes, and also the five elements—earth, water, fire, air, and ether. The Hiranyabarbha pervades all creation as it transcends time and space by expanding and advancing infinitely in the cosmos.
I became interested in the concept of Hiranyagarbha about two decades ago; after visiting Haridwar and Rishikesh, where I saw cavities on the sand banks of the river Ganga, which were formed over the years as the river changed its course. They reminded me of a womb, and the quietude and solace that I found while sitting inside one of these cavities was extremely powerful. After my mother passed away, I began to think more about the source of life and its course, and thus began my quest in knowing the concept of Hiranyagarbha.

low res 1216, 24x24 inches, 2015 low, 1204, 24x24 inches, 2015 low, 1205, 24x24 inches, 2015Through my works I seek to understand the organic and continuously evolving processes of all beings and matter. For over twenty-six years, I have been interested in showing the state of flux of the body and mind using various mediums and materials. For the first time, I have put to use circular canvases to depict the golden womb.

My family hails from Greater Punjab, currently located in Pakistan and after the partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947, they had to migrate to Delhi, India. The tales that my family narrated about their displacement and their journey, in search of a new home and life is a deeply embedded memory in my mindscape that stokes my imagination of space and existence. To understand my own personal voyage, I often reflect upon the travel undertaken by my family and the adverse conditions they had faced as they crossed national, religious, and sectarian borders. Thus, my creative practice in many ways can be viewed as an exploration of the static and dynamic and internal and external forces that influence our lives.

Seema Kohli
IAF 2015

24x24 in, 1230

Kasturi, 24x24in diameter, mix media on canvas with 24kt gold and silver, 2015

1219, 10x12 inches, mix media on canvas, fiber glass, 2015 ??????????????????????????????? ??????????????????????????????? ??????????????????????????????? 1225, 10x12 inches, mix media on canvas, fiber glass, 2015 ??????????????????????????????? 1231, 10x12 inches, mix media on canvas, fiber glass, 2015 ???????????????????????????????

10x12x4 inches, mix media on canvas with 24kt gold and silver leaf, fiberglass, plywood, 2015

1217, 48x36x36, mix media on canvas, plywood, fiberglass, 2015 a 1217, 48x36x36,mix media on canvas, plywood, fiberglass, 2015 d 1217, 48x36x36,mix media on canvas, plywood, fiberglass, 2015 e1217, 48x36x36,mix media on canvas, plywood, fiberglass, 2015 f


 Juneja Art Gallery Presents

TriGuna

Works by
Seema Kohli

Booth: F6

TriGuna

It is only when we understand Maya’s “khel” that we can aspire for the union of our inner force with that of the outer, which we call Universal Truth or Para Brahman.

Whenever I look around at the plants in the pots in my balcony, the trees in the gardens or forests and the birds in the sky, the table I work on, the paints in the jars with which I paint, the sink in which I wash the dishes, the clothes that I wear, even the food that I eat, the apple that I bite, my pet dog – Fido, my relatives, the mosquitoes that I squash as a reflex action when it descends on me, each one has its own journey defined by its own “kriya” or actions; thus marking its own cycle of rejuvenation.

1218, Detail, 48x36x36, mix media on canvas, plywood, fiberglass, 2015 c 1218,48x36x36, mix media on canvas, plywood, fiberglass, 2015 b 1218,48x36x36, mix media on canvas, plywood, fiberglass, 2015 E

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For, I firmly believe that there is no such thing as death, only a cycle of creation and destruction, birth and rebirth. The “TriGuna” came about as my invocation of these basic energies that are responsible for creation and destruction and creation yet again.

Khel

Am I a Myth or reality?
Today’s reality is tomorrow’s myth…
Tomorrow’s myth is yesterday’s reality…
I weave a web of illusion,
I entice, create desires…
Am I,
Terrible, a destroyer, a slayer?
Of all that entangles into my web.
Licking the root of their desires,
Vanquishing it,
Bestowing freedom to all who dare to play with me
I am Maya
The fire within is without
I am the creator and the destroyer
Come,
Play with me

Seema Kohli
2012

I believe that to explain the manifestation from one to many, of forms, names and a calendar of time within which each was created can be attributed to an evocation of these energies. It is my personal belief that from the mythological form of Ardhanareshwar, when Parvati disengaged from Shiva, Shakti gained form and started manifesting as many…or this world.

From Shakti arose the Saptmatrikas, the Astlakshmis, the Navdurgas, and the Dasmahavidyas. In time, the manifestations resulted in the creation of the Chausath Yogini and the Ekyasi Yogini, forms that continue to evolve to satisfy our needs or to bring balance to the world. This is, of course, my personal belief, not something you will find in a book or rendered in a philosophy, but it appeals to me just as much as the many versions of Shakti that exist. I share in those versions and am fascinated by their interpretations and manifestations too.
1219, 48x36x36, mix media on canvas, plywood, fiberglass, 2015 e 1219, 48x36x36, mix media on canvas, plywood, fiberglass, 2015 c 1219, 48x36x36, mix media on canvas, plywood, fiberglass, 2015 b 1219, 48x36x36, mix media on canvas, plywood, fiberglass, 2015 a

For we think back through our mothers if we are women
– Virginia Woolf

These manifestations inspire me to attempt to analyze the world I see around me, especially as a woman who must make sense, daily, of injustices in the world. To comprehend why we continue to look away
when prejudice occurs, when sensitivities are overlooked, or when negative forces are invoked. I want to, therefore, to look inwards to evoke the energy that is manifest in each one of us, to apply the healing salve of motherhood to a world that needs it. For that energy resides in each one of us, women and men, and it is that we must manifest.
I look within the womb to discover, that which is outside. I want to awaken my senses to experience the goddess’s gift of what nature bestows on us – not just of life but of the sun that shines and the rain that rejuvenates, of the heat and cold and all things that bring to life that which is around us.

I believe in that energy and it is that I present in this installations and video performance.

– Seema Kohli
December 2012
(The explanation is purely the interpretation of the artist and may not comply with the various scriptural interpretations by lk       

   

        


art heritage

Presents
 

‘Chausat Yogini’
Works By
Seema Kohli

Collateral Exhibition With India Art Fair 2015
29th January – 1st February, 2015

Venue – Art Heritage I, Basement, Triveni Kala Sangam,
205, Tansen Marg, New Delhi

RSVP- Tel-+91-11-23719470, 981869193 artheritagegallery@gmail.com/www.artheritagegallery.com

HI-RES, chaust yogini with black frame, 13 feet wide X 8 feet height, each print 13 inches with frameI believe that there first existed a womb through which everything came
to be created, which I call the golden womb or the ‘Hiranyagarbha’. This golden
womb,  this  one  energy  or  ‘shakti’  later  disintegrated  into  three.  These  three
new shaktis came  to  be  known  by  the  names  Durga,  Laxmi  and  Saraswati.

These names that have been

1184, 5x5 inches, 2014

Chaust yogini( Detail)

1181, 5x5 inches, 2014

Chaust yogini( Detail)

conferred upon these shaktis might be mythical in
nature but the purpose of the existence of these shaktis is not mythical.
I believe that every idea or concept has to be contained in a time, space
and  by  a  name;  so  I  have  tried  to  use  the  same  names  that  have  traditionally
been  used for these shaktis. Now these three shaktis further disintegrated into  7,
then 15, 21, 42, 64, 81 and so on; thus these energies constantly  kept increasing.
These  then  moved  into  different  spaces  and  led  to  the  creation  of  different
things  and  being. And  I  feel these  energies  are  still  further disintegrating  and
developing into many forms, of which we are not yet aware.
Thus  we  can  never  be  sure  how  many  forms  of  this  ever expanding
energy, and by energies I am  referring  to the  Yoginis,  actually exist in a given
time and space.
Here,  I  am  presenting,  along  with Art  Heritage  Gallery,  a  showcase  of
“Chausath Yogini”; 64 etchings on zinc plate, which are all separately framed in
glass, occupying a wall space of 156” x 104”. The size of each work without
frame is 8” x 10”.
Copyright © *|2014-15|* *|seemakohli|*, All rights reserved.
*|IAF 2015|*

1174, 5x5 inches, 2014

Chaust yogini( Detail)

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8th March women’s Day Celibration

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…..celebrate….
for all those women who have a voice and who do not have one,
for they understood the silence…
celebrate….
for all those women who walk the untraded path…
true or false…
moral or immoral
good or bad
for what is for one is not for another…
celebrate…
for all those women exploring, unearthing,
in the rhythm to the smile and laughter of their soul
celebrate….
to being a woman not only in body but in soul….

 

Decoding Seema Kohli’s Art

I have often been told that my is extremely layered,symbolic and ensconced in mythological narrative and Tantric thought.Therefore although fascinating for my spectators they also struggle to grasp the narrative and thought behind my work.While I do not want to impose a single reading of my work and each one is free to interpret them in their own personal way,I thought I should de- mystify my work and give a brief background about them to my friends and art enthusiasts.

Let me begin with my five paneled work “Myth is Reality”[2010].And yes,there are many more to come in the series!

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Myth is Reality[2010],72 x 82 inches,Mixed Media on canvas

Shakti, the female procreative energy comprises of three gunas of satva,rajas and tamas.Tamas governed by Goddess Kali [or Kaal/time] which is hidden giving the feeling of being static is however the space of creation. At the top of the central panel in the painting, we see the ferocious black Kali while in her white avatar she sits on a cosmos which tells the story of creation in a series of non-concentric circles. From the centre of the cosmos, we see a lotus emerge from the navel of a woman followed by a variety of animals, trees, clouds and finally yoginis. The robes are representational of our worldly bonding that Kali entangles us with.

The right panel shows the satvic form of Shakti-Parvati in union with the male principle Shiva demonstrating the union of Purusha-Prakriti resulting in the opening of the third eye or enlightenment. Below we see Shakti riding a lion representing the male principle demonstrating total control and her multiple hands indicates multi-tasking. The left panel shows the birth of Shakti from Vishnu’s navel [though traditionally it is Brahma who emerges from Vishnu] once again showing the harmony of male and female principle in the cosmos. Lotus symbolises gyan or knowledge of Shakti in him .Gandharvas or flying celestial and the Tree of Life can be seen in the background while the female form rises supremely to show the omnipresence of the female energy.

On the extreme right, we see the birth of cosmos from the navel of Shakti while celestial deities in yogic posture can be seen floating below amongst various birds to indicate the derivation of the posture from the birds for centralising the seven chakras with the vortex. The Tree of Life symbolic of unlimited knowledge where the branches fall down as potent trees giving birth to new roots. On the extreme left, the tree with tea cups hanging from them is juxtaposed with the Banyan Tree-the contemporary source of contemplation with the ancient symbol of knowledge.

Yogini-The Unifying Force

 I recently gave a talk at the  National Symposium on Return of the Yogini, Art & Crime  organised by  the National Museum, New Delhi.I was thrilled to be a part of the symposium with Dr Anubha Pande,Stella Dupuis,Haripriya Rangarajan,Madhu Khanna and others.Haripriya’s enticing talk on the Varahi iconography has got me  hunting for her books everywhere!For those who could not make it then,I am sharing a brief excerpt from my talk discussing the influence and relevance of  Yogini  on my life and my art along with a short film of the event.

The single most theme that has profoundly and incessantly influenced my art is the ancient tantric practice of Yogini worship. Yoginis are a group of female deities- sixty four or eight-one and seen as both benevolent and wish granting as well as malevolent and harmful.There are different form of Yoginis classified so based on their attributes.The horse necked Yogini is called Hayagriva while the Yogini fond of wine is called Surapriya and the terribly terrible one is called Pracanda.

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It is both the iconography as well as the philosophy of the Yogini cult that inspires my work and you can find constant references to the various form of Yoginis and matrikas in my paintings, sculptures, installation and films.

What is it about the Yoginis that leaves me so fascinated and intrigued you ask?My artistic concern, interest and journey primarily revolves around the idea of creation which for me is the celebration of the feminine aspect of procreation or “shakti” which exists in balance with the male principle, Shiva, formless, undefined pure consciousness.

When He opened His eyes

She smiled

And said

Everything is Me an Mine

He closed His eyes

And United

Everything merged within

She expanded and contracted

At her own accord

With each breath

He took

As my family is a firm believer in the Advaita philosophy of Vedanta, I was introduced to the idea of Maya-Maya which as not just illusion but the creator of the illusion as well. Therefore, all creation, that which we know as the universe – the world, the seas, the sky, and people and animals alike – all bearers of the faith and those who created the faith, hence the creator of the gods too – is but Maya. The Brahman, or Param Purusha as we call him, is that unified force; the moment it disintegrates, Maya assumes her cosmic play or “khel”. She who gave us the power to create faith, beliefs and religion, in the process indirectly created the gods too. It is only when we understand Maya’s “khel” that we can aspire to the union of our inner force with that of the outer that we call Universal Truth, or Para Brahman.

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There is a verse in Japji Sahib, a Sikh scripture:

Aika mai jagat vahayi, tin chale parvan

Ek samsara ek bhandari ek lai Dewan

O vaikhe o nadir na avai bahuta eho vadhan

There was Maya who created this universe, from whom emerged Brahama, the creator, Vishnu the sustainer and Mahesh the destroyer. The Brahman (the Unified Force comprising of Shiva and Shakti) creates this mystery. They see but are unseen.

As Shakti flowed, three rasas or guna emerged, from which the whole universe was created –Sattva [saraswati] Rajas [laksmi] and tamas[kali].These expanded into Saptamatrikas the AshtalakshmiNavdurgas and the Dusmahavidyas .In time, the manifestations resulted in the creation of the Chausath Yogini and the Ekyasi Yogini, forms that continue to evolve to satisfy our needs or to bring balance to the world .For me, the idea of Matrikas and Yoginis thus came about as our invocation of these basic energies that are responsible for creation and destruction and creation yet again.

Different forms of Yoginis exist and these different forms of Yoginis concentrate on different energies. The Yoginis which are supernatural beings have aligned their soul, mind and body as well as have achieved alignment with the environment and hence are able to take different forms.I believe that yoginis are intellectually driven and these feminine forms are very intuitive and conducive to imbibe these qualities seeking Bhairava as their companion.

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These manifestations inspire me to attempt to analyze the world I see around me, to look inwards to evoke the energy that is manifest in each one of us, to apply the healing salve of motherhood to a world that needs it. For that energy resides in each one of us, women and men, and it is that we must manifest if we are to seek the mother goddess in the continuous spell of Maya.

I believe in that energy and it this energy that constitutes the central focus of my paintings, sculptures, installations, and video performance.

Influences in my art

Do I paint the Goddess?

Yes. No.

But I paint nature, the universe, life.

Goddesses as mortal.

Mortals who are heroic.

I am taken, in some measure, by all faiths- Hinduism, Sikhism, Christianity, Sufism, Buddhism.

My work I believe is firmly ensconced in the narrative of female form and energy constantly straddling the space between modernity and tradition. Deriving my inspiration from ancient myths and legends, philosophy, faith and literature, my work  however is never confined to the traditional iconographic rules. For me these “mythological subjects” are more “real”, more essential, permanent, and truthful – than the even the everyday.

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Engaging with concepts and philosophy of ancient times, I re-narrativise and re –tell these legends giving it a modernist sensibility. My works like Swayamsidha (The Self Realised) and Hiranyagarba (The Golden Womb), Ouroboros and Tree of Life take mythological tales from the past to interpret the modern world. I not only incorporate ancient myths but create my own urban myths as I paint. I live in a metropolitan environment and when I paint, these elements from my life, from the neighborhoods and the urban skylines automatically weave themselves in. Alongside the many natural motifs in my paintings:  the birds, animals, fish, flowers, trees, sun, moon, rivers, you will find material objects from everyday life – coat hangers, ladders, handbags, sofas, film strips.My work is never restricted to the myths of any one religion or faith but shows borrowing from different faiths, belief systems and mythologies.

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Performances and Shakta Sites

Reds of the morning

Blacks of the night

Yearnings of the past and the freshness of the present

All caught up in the amalgamation of five elements

Under the spell of Maya

Engulfing, floundering, celebrating

Enchanting me, seducing me

Into her world of magic, a world of dreams

And like an enchantress, holding my hand

Walking me through this inexplicable experience

Influencing me to open my thoughts to grater heights

Stringing me into watching the flight of limitless dreams

Into the discipline of happening

Making my path my destination

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My video performances that once again largely engage with the similar theme of feminine energy are recording of my visit to various Shakta sites like 64 Yogini Temple, Jharial, Ranipur, Odhisha; Saptamatrika caves at Ellora (numbers 14,16, 21, 22), the Yogini temple at Bheragat near Bhopal and Mahadev Pani, near Bhopal and so on where I absorb, react and reinterpret the energy that inhabits these sacred sites.

In my quest to seek these powerful feminine energies, I have travelled far and wide, my visits taking me to strange places, exotic places, places touched with the energy of the ancient deities.I engage in a series of symbolic acts- meditating, bowing, fervent encircling of the temple, rolling on the floor, striking yogic stance, cleansing the body and so on that are reflective of the potent nature of the energy that engulfs me. By meditating beneath a giant lingam, curling myself into and then out of a hollow in the ground or by sitting  as one of the 1300 year old stone Matrikas,I attempt to become one with the headless idol, the parched earth, the distant resounding chants and the sacred geography of the site.

The visit to these Shakta Sites themselves become a part of the creative process which is undertaken within the realm of experience which is translated into the realm of expression through painting, installation, writing, filmmaking and documentation. My exploration is not only visual but is perceptual, intellectual and sensorial.

Parikrama

Journey….

Yogini who they say struck terror, venerated

thus for their dangerous fecundity, their terrible wrath.

Yet, were they not simply fulfilling their destinies? Being protective? Nurturing?

In their zeal, they came to be represented for their darker powers, venerated in temples as goddesses to be appeased, associated with gods either as their spouses, or as

their forms of energy, female principles that have been ritualized, iconicised, cherished,

feared…

And so I undertake a journey.

A parikrama …is it of self-realization?

I empty myself.

I become the womb.

Armed with solace and caring, I am the earth. Ancient, primeval, modern, all encompassing.

So the world – all nature – tells me.

So it should tell you.

 The idea of Yoginis becomes very fascinating today because Yogini is not simply a thought and neither is her message a sermon.She is experimenting on herself through kriya and yoga through which she enters our blood, vein, bones and our soul.She comes down to subliminal levels and starts her own journey, her khel –her play with herself which takes us to new mystical heights. Is it through her journey, I search for my identity. Am I then a shaman or a priestess? A psychic or a storyteller? A Yogini or a spiritualist? A feminist or a manifestation of feminine energy? My work I believe then becomes an exploration into these realms of the self and the relationship of the self with the larger cosmos that seeks an identity, symbol and meaning.

 

 

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.

Seema-desk

seema-kohli-canvas

Seema-kohli-studio

{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.

anshika-varma-room

Anshika-studio

anshika-studio-2Anshika-studio-wall

{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.