Metaphysical embodiment: Transcendence is nothing but deep self-knowing. ‘Art leads to transcendent knowledge, which, in the spirit of Vedanta, is nothing other than self-knowledge’ writes Harsha Dehejia. (Dehejia, 2000, p. 2). Porosity can be practised only when our perception opens up to consider possibilities that are beyond the physical. Moving beyond the gross physical into the subtle space of mind, intellect, and breath to inquire into beingness is critical if we are to reflect on porosity. Beingness further expands when the idea of self is broken from within its limits as of a physical body to encompass a more universal self. This act of breaking the self, allowing other beings to seep through and experience the energy and spirit of other beings inside oneself, is a practice of metaphysical embodiment.
'Sahrudaya I - Woven Hearts', Acrylic on canvas, 2009, (3ft by 3.5ft)
Touching the great wilderness
Men,women, eagle, fish,
Leaves in conversations,
Curved forms, bent tree
Children in embrace
In heart woven heart
Breathing in and
Physical transience: Allowing one’s physical being to change, morph, and transmute in response to the natural environment is part of my practice. Whether it is using the gestures of dance or walking among trees, I can engage in a space and with the beings in it by listening quietly and deeply to the surrounding environment and responding to its rhythms with my body. This is very different to when I move in the same spaces without awareness. The ability to allow the body to fluidly respond to the rhythms of the outer world, drawing it into the inner, is one of my central approaches to physical transience. Being aware of the ephemerality of these experiences is critical to understanding and deepening practices of porosity. ‘Yoga attempts to create a state in which we are always present — really present — in every action, in every moment’ (Desikachar, 1995, p. 6). This intensive awareness of mind and body, and an integrated self lies at the heart of physical transience.
'Becoming Heron', Acrylic on canvas, 2016, (1.5ft by 2ft)
There is this wingspan of the grey heron as she takes off from a branch close by. Grey. Orange. Black. White. Graceful flight. Camouflaged landing up in the trees. For a moment our forms are impermeable and then the boundary slips. She is heron and I human. She is wing and feather and lightness and I am hand and torso and much more solid ... and yet when the boundary slips, it is only awareness that changes and imperceptibly form becomes a shape-shifting play. That wingspan is now mine, as is the lift of her head. I walk. She flies. But her wingspan has changed my awareness ... and therefore it has altered my form ...
Mythological storytelling: Space and time can easily be altered in mythology. Mythology affords characterisations and plots that are often unavailable in everyday language. In mythology it is possible to build multiple layers and symbolisms, as well as circular, non-linear, and recursive narratives. Hindu mythology is rich with content for subverting, inverting, interpreting, and reengaging through myth, so that new understandings may begin to emerge about diverse experiences.
Illustrations for a self-authored story, ‘Koṟravai and the Blue Stone’, 2007, that investigates the relationship between Śiva and Śakti, Puruṣa and Prakṛiti, nature and matter, in the form of dance. The myths and movements are informed by own practice of Bharatanātyamas a classical dance form. Watercolour and ink on Canson Watercolour paper, (12 in by 16 in).
Aesthetic Play: Porosity is one of the central principles of aesthetic play in my work. Aesthetic play is both ornamentation and grammar. ‘Aesthetics is alamkāra-śāstra, that is, ornamentation of the central synthesising principle by means of the particular medium’ (Kak, 2006).
‘In India, poetics, the alamkāra-śāstra, is one of the central sciences, a natural extension of the great paradigmatic discipline of grammar’ (Shulman, 2012, p. 53). Never bound by a singular style or form and continuing to be porous, my work is dispersed across art, design, writing, and movement improvisation. Whether children’s picture books, books of poetry, paintings, workshop designs, or curricula, I choose to express my central principle in diverse contexts and media. Children’s illustration allows me to play with forms, characters, and storylines, while paintings allow me to explore abstract forms. Poetry allows me to work with different poetic devices as ornamentation, metaphor, analogical reasoning, and more. Movement allows embodied experimentation of emotion, experience, and actions that are porous.
'Nekiḻci : Moments of transformation', acrylic and ink on canvas, 2016, (4ft by 6ft)
Notes for Painting (Figure 10): 9th April 2016, Bandipur, The ficus
Somewhere along the curve, further away from the roads, a ficus tree stands in the fields adjoining the forest. In a self-contained circle it rules the landscape with simple elegant ease. I am mesmerised when I watch it and wonder what made it fashion itself like that. The hanging roots are of varying length, but they appear like rain or waterfall; the tree’s shape is like a rhythmic song reminiscent of water. I am drawn to it like I am drawn to the rain-catcher. It rises in perfect cylindrical geometry and yet breaks with that in the organic flow of its branches and roots, of its million leaves dancing in the wind. This tree is a song, but of such extraordinary stillness that it appears to anchor all the land around it, as well as the sky. It finds a way to draw me in too. Even as I have always wondered about the architecture of trees, this time, when I look at this particular ficus tree, I get the feeling, perhaps an insight, that these fine beings are extraordinarily conscious of their own form and craft themselves diligently. In trees, I begin to sense a consciousness that as humans we do not understand and have no tools to measure. But I would hedge my bets on the trees and say that it wasn’t just land, sun, water, and other resources that shaped its form, but a conscious process by which the tree crafted itself in that space.
Notes for Painting (Figure 10): 30th January 2016, Sukhna Lake, Chandigarh
The pochard sleeps content in still water
The water sleeps content in the stillness of the reflection.
The common pochard sleeps on a still lake and I feel rested.
The black-headed ibis fly. The marsh shifts, air lightens. Another imperceptible shift; space and time alter instantaneously. Why be stuck in human space-time when an ibis can cleverly alter it?
The old heron rests in the forest ... I watch him through the lacework of leaves and branches. He is old and I age with him in simple resonance. I walk away, but the ageing stays ... as restful stillness.