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Art & Spirituality: A Creative Dialogue
By Anandita Bhardwaj
07 Feb 2022
In the modern world, exploration of spirituality has become increasingly common to all cultural discourses around the world. When it comes to its connotation in the sphere of contemporary art, the idea of spirituality has always defied a set classification owing to the fact that each artist brings an essence of their own personal belief and ideas with their works. While their creative expression also borrows from the symbolism of different traditions, cultures, and religions, their unrestrained experimentation with different styles and mediums has resulted in an absolutely unique approach to spirituality that is free from cliches.
For one of India’s top contemporary artists, Bharti Kher, the traditional bindi worn by Indian women on their foreheads has come to signify spirituality and symbolises femininity and strength. First appearing in her work in 1995, the bindi has undergone a subliminal transformation through her art practice to bring about grand canvases executed with the meticulous and layered placing of the bindis on the surface to articulate her thoughts and narratives.
While Sri Lankan artist Senaka Senanayake is best known for his works celebrating the majesty of Sri Lanka’s abundant nature of his country, the foundation for his practise remains rooted in Buddhist thought. The ‘circle of life' has also been a recurring theme in the artist’s work. “The teachings of Buddha have inspired me. About 20 years ago I did a series of paintings on Buddha’s life and the Jataka Tales,” said the artist about his inspiration.
Akin to the pages of a book with mythological fables, paintings by artist Gopikrishna’s are reminiscent of the naturalism seen in the mural tradition of India. The traditional get-ups of his figures and the multiplicity of limbs and heads on his beats offered a glimpse of traditional divinity and monstrosity.
Growing up in Prayagraj, artist Vivek Sharma witnessed a number of Kumbh Melas where people from all over the country gather to seek divine answers with a dip in the confluence of three holy rivers. The Kumbh Melas are also very famous for the large congregation of Vagabond Hindu Sadhus from whom the artist draws his inspiration. Devoted to Shiva, the original ascetic, Viveek’s holy figures are often depicted in the state of deep spiritual meditation.
With a wide-ranging oeuvre spanning mediums, works by artist G R Iranna often dwell into the existential crisis of human life and draw inspiration from the religious philosophies of Lingayatism and Buddhism which are rooted in finding inner peace and wisdom. With his artistic rendition and unique expressions, he inquires into spirituality by layering his imagery with references and meanings to morality and ways of life. “If you dissect my works you will see layers of ideas and thoughts hidden there … spirituality and peace, yes, but also violence, greed and anger. All my works carry a message for society,” the artist said about his works in an interview.
Primarily a painter, Rekha Rodwittiya is known for her celebration of the female form in intimate domestic settings which are often rendered in bright colours and heavily embellished with various elements of mythical and traditional motifs.
Drawing from personal spiritual beliefs and past experiences, her painting dwells on the alienating complexities of femalehood and expresses various thoughts and emotions including questioning the patriarchal system.
Considering the power of art to transpose the viewer into an imaginary realm, it is no surprise that spirituality has come to be an enduring feature of contemporary art.