In Search of Samādhāna
Samādhāna is a Sanskrit noun derived from the word, samādhā (समाधा), and variously means – putting together, uniting, fixing the mind in abstract contemplation on the true nature of the soul, profound or abstract meditation, deep contemplation, intentness, steadiness, composure, peace of mind, clearing up a doubt or replying to the pūrvapaksha, agreeing or promising, a leading incident, justification of a statement, proof, reconciliation or eagerness.
Source: Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samadhana
“You work that you may keep pace with the Earth and the Soul of the Earth.”
-The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran
My desire to depict is sparked by the mystery derived from the sense of looking. Natural surroundings, especially trees, often serve as backdrops for my compositions. I am fascinated by the textures of nature. Through detailed renderings of a small-scale work I explore the minutest of components in an observed natural environment. My works begin with such an observed element where the interplay of light and shade creates an atmosphere or situation that has the potential for poetic or philosophical references. This becomes a point of departure that takes the artwork beyond representational level. At this point the right technique and the choice of mediums naturally come into play while painting. I introduce more elements like actors would appear on a stage on cue. The story of the painting begins to unravel. Animate and inanimate characters find their places within the painting. Once the work is complete, through closer observation all the elements create a matrix that reveals messages driven from our collective consciousness. There are some reoccuring symbolisms in my work: birds that suggest rebirth and a liberated self and trees that represent the continuum of life. There are also empty chairs or carpets that are meant to be invitations for the viewer to take the vantage point within the painting and witness it, judge and interpret it, or become a participating actor in it.
I create mixed media paintings with elements of collage. I employ a variety of historical and contemporary techniques as in a postmodern approach. My paintings thrive with objects that evoke intricate Indian painting styles that developed from 16th to 19th centuries. I find that this hybrid of western and eastern influences works effectively in shaping philosophical vision of an artist like me who doesn’t conform to a single style but rather chooses from a variety of styles to convey the intended meaning. In the late 19th century, Indian art began to evolve from persianate to European realism. Gradually the flatness and stylized consistency was replaced with realistic classical renderings. Similarly in my paintings, despite the miniature scale, the details are rendered with thick paint applications and built-up glazes in the manner of classical masters such as Rembrandt, Velasques, and Vrubel. In effect my paintings are an amalgamation of European classical, impressionist, and expressionist techniques with the precisely detailed storytelling elements of the traditional Persian and Indian art. This use of two different visual languages allows me to create suggestions of prose and poetry. Coexistence of different styles on one surface represents my philosophical idea about image making.
“When you work with love you bind yourself to yourself, and to one another, and to God.” – Kahlil Gibran “The Prophet”
Often I marvel at the state of mind that great artists achieve in order to employ patience and self-restraint in following the demands of image making. I recall miniature engravings of Rembrandt that are about 2in by 2in. When viewed through magnifying glass dozens of precise needle marks can be seen that makeup the facial features. I am similarly mesmerized by the large scale paintings by Rameshwar Broota. Mind becomes silent while observing the similar elements that constitute a surface. It’s akin to being in a meditative state when mind has nothing to add or subtract, nothing to contemplate. Such artworks urge you to be submerged in a state of thoughtless observation.
As I see it, in the natural world everything is made with equal amount of engineering precision and artistic craftsmanship, whether it’s the smallest of particles or the grandest of structures. The only way to become sensitive to the subtleties of universal aesthetics is by applying consistent effort to discipline the mind’s attention to the interconnectedness of everything. When you dedicate time and conscious effort to your practice, the practice opens you to the experience of being an instrument for the universal creative force. It’s like being the flute through which music may flow. To me this is the common characteristic that unites the recognized masters of art across disciplines and time periods. I am inspired by this intangible quality that is present in all great works of art whether by Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, or Rameshwar Broota or their contemporaries.
While adding and subtracting colors and textures I let the painting evolve. I choose inanimate elements for my paintings that are inherently beautiful such as intricately carved chairs or embellished fabrics. I render these objects with same level of detail as the animate elements. This could become a recursive process if I realize that I’ve obscured a particular portion of aesthetic worth. Then I employ scraping. The elaborate man-made goods are juxtaposed on the textural patterns formed by leaves, rocks, or clouds. Thereafter my objective is to reveal the interconnectedness of universal aesthetics in nature and creative potential that humans strive to express.
“In truth that which you call freedom is the strongest of these chains, though its links glitter in the sun and dazzle your eyes.”
“And what is it but fragments of your own self you would discard that you may become free?” – The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran.
Though I execute my works borrowing postmodern vision of combining various styles, my ideological adherence to Unitarian Universalism rescues me from the denial that is inherent in Postmodernism. Postmodern non conformity to one point of view or notion and all permissiveness in self-expression allows vast variety of experimentations. Emergence of post-postmodern has ushered in an epoch of reinstated belief in universal values as a singular starting point and the final destination. In our times primal importance is being given to the notion of universal archetypes that adhere to primordial value systems. It was Carl Jung who examined that these archetypes are common to all. In contemporary times non-adherence to one organized religion isn’t dismissed as “atheism” and you may exercise the right to be considered a spiritual seeker who consider all religions as branches of one tree. I look out for these renewed and reinstated unitarian notions in the works of old masters as well as contemporary artists. It inspires me to seek greater aesthetics through my own practice.
Flow of water is often used as a metaphor for unleashed and free flowing energy and yet in terms of science each molecule must obey the laws of physics. There is a similar dynamic between creative vision and acquired skills of an artist. Even in meditation practice you require technique and understanding to commence the meditation yet the authenticity of the process is experienced only when “I do” awareness decreases. Because my journey as an artist is closely connected to my meditation practice my approach to creating art is to seek a balance between doing and not-doing. Both intellectual and emotional intelligence affect the depth and quality of meditation. However the depth of intelligence can also be evaluated by your ability to let go of controlled, conventional use of intelligence or skill. While working I constantly contemplate about how much effort I must apply and how much should I hold myself back in order for the beauty in front of me to reveal itself. My task thus involves effortless-effort and surrender to the perceived image that must be allowed to dictate the choice of the apt painting technique.
I have received training in traditional representational painting and drawing from the State School of Kiev,Ukraine, under the guidance of Oleg Zhyvodkov. While doing BFA at OCAD, Toronto, Canada, I experienced the phase of non-conformity and steadfastness of Western art. Ultimately it was in India where all my learning was put into perspective. Living in this country has brought about many revelations that have contributed to my spiritual and artistic development. It is the place where eternal primordial value system is evident and prevailing in all aspects of life and has withstood the tests of modern and postmodern “isms.” Here, under the guidance of Shri Rameshwar Broota, I have received the needed setting and framework to allow the integration of the traditional with personal and universal.
“And I say that life is indeed darkness save when there is urge, And all urge is blind save when there is knowledge. And all knowledge is vain save when there is work, and all work is empty save when there is love; and when you work with love you bind yourself to yourself, and to one another, and to God.” – The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran.
The Nature of Order: An Essay on the Art of Building and the Nature of the Universe – Christopher Alexander
The Spirit in Man, Art and Literature – C.G. Jung