WELL-BEING THROUGH ART WITH INDIAN ARTIST SEEMA KOHLI
The healing power of art feels more relevant and necessary than ever during these strange and challenging times. In response to COVID-19 and resulting ‘stay-at-home’ orders around the world, this series of blogs turns to various visual and performing artists for their insights on how art contributes to their well-being.
Today, leading contemporary Indian artist Seema Kohli will share her personal experience with art as a vital aspect of well-being. An internationally recognized artist, Seema has shown widely in India, the United States and Europe, including her recent solo exhibition at the Museum of Sacred Art in Brussels. She is particularly known for her sensual, vibrantly colored paintings and sculptures that explore themes of femininity, beauty and spirituality. Each scene is intricately layered with mythological narratives and symbols, from lotus flowers to winged ‘gandharvas.’ (You can read more in an interview with her on our blog here.)
In her own words, Seema reflects on how art has been a source of healing and guidance throughout her life, and how now especially we can find solace in art:
I was introduced to the world of color and paper as a form of therapy as a 3 year old, because I was extremely introverted. It brought me closer to myself, teaching me a secret language to connect with myself and with others. It was a game of interpretations of my images, which I would play with my family and friends. It also gave me a sense of identity, as art provides a space where you can express yourself fully. Whatever was happening in my mind, all of my questions and my answers to those questions, became embedded in my scenes on paper or canvas.
In the early 1980s, I had just passed my applied arts course, and I was also recently married. My artistic influences at that time were very contained, because I myself felt constrained as a daughter, a daughter-in-law, a wife. I would like to compare two images, one which was done in 1990 and one which was done in 2020. In the self-portrait from 1990, I am depicted behind bars. And in one from 2020, I am flying. You can access the artist’s state of mind by their expression though the images, taking you on a voyage of emotions. This is the connection of art.
I believe that art reflects our circumstances — our mental space, how peaceful we are with ourselves and what interests us. It is clear that I have always been interested in the feminine, gender and the path to liberation. And art has always reflected my inner space, my contentment.
Images can both reflect and change your perspective towards life. That’s one of the deep sensibilities of art. I have always maintained that we are the fragrance of the social system — artists reflect and steer social changes.
My art is a dialogue with myself. When I paint, the images are emerging out of my hand, while rendering through my mind. It is a beautiful experience on its own. And when I connect with myself, I also connect to a higher consciousness and to others. There is a space where we all are connected to one single consciousness.
I wrote these lines which I will share with you:
It is a borrowed breath of
this earth water and air
of he she and me
there is only one truth
that is “breath”
there is only one faith
that is “love”
there is only one belief
I am you and you are me.
During COVID-19, art can definitely play an affirmative role. Spending time with art — and I mean not only visual and performing arts, but also activities that may not often be considered art like cooking, gardening, simply doing creative things with your own hands — brings one closer to the elements. This can be a humbling experience, and it creates a sense of harmony with the world.
Even in times when I am low, when you see a breeze flowing softly, it calms you. A tree swaying, a flower blossoming, a bird flying high. All of these are inspiring for me, and they become a part and a process of my artistic practise. I suggest to everyone to find inspiration and reassurance in their surroundings. There is abundant love and compassion to share and receive.
– Seema Kohli
Many thanks to Seema for sharing her personal narrative, as well as her early paintings which have not been shown since the 1990s. For any sales inquiries on artist Seema Kohli’s paintings,
please get in touch at +1 650-770-9088 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Best wishes to everyone for good health and peace of mind!
— Sonia Nayyar Patwardhan