About My Work - UMA NAIR

UMA NAIR - 2016

THE LOOM OF TIME

I beat on your door
Out of fear.
I wasn’t yet born,
I was in the womb,
When a great sadness
Came over me.
It hasn’t left me since.
It’s with me now
When I’m old and infirm
And time shakes me by the hair.
Time strikes the drum.
I’ve nowhere to turn,
Let me in.

Kabir Songs

Sridhar Iyer is a pilgrim, in search of different symbolisms in his quest for Yog Maya .His boxes read like a maze of powerful poems — more renditions filled symbolic translations —feminine decorative full of the little things that denote desire but also remind us, that this whole concept of Maya is ephemeral ,it is beyond traditions, histories, ethnographies and interpretations.

Maya and the Mind

Shridhar says that when we think of Maya the mind associates such ideas as "transitory, ever-changing, elusive, ever-returning," with "unreality," and conversely, imperishable, changeless, steadfast, and eternal," with "the real." These boxes frame the litany of experiences and sensations that stream through the consciousness of an individual even as they remain untouched by any widening, vision. We also think of opposites that appear and vanish in the unending cycle of life (samsara, the round of rebirth) are regarded by him as utterly real. But the moment their fleeting character is discerned, they come to seem almost unreal – an illusion or mirage, a deception of the senses.

Maya is like a cocoon,it has the capacityto startle and awaken and is undiminished in its power. It is also replete with epiphanies, reversals and metaphors that can only come, to the artist and translator alike, from that silent sky between words where meaning resides.

These boxes , audaciously look time in the eye, they are intolerant of hypocrisy, outwitting any attempt at appropriation, for us they are a time-machine back to our childhood, when, we thoughtlessly played with the silver coin, whose one face is poetry and the other, truth. Shridhardoes not merely translate desires in Maya: like countless nameless thinkers over the ages, he reworks Maya and boxes it into a meshed contemporary reality of materials .

The sensuous human figure, elegant, adorned, and attractive, was the dominant feature of the artistic tradition of pre-modern India. The body in the Indian tradition is always the body richly adorned. Alamkara or adornment protects the body, making it complete and attractive; to be unornamented is to invite misfortune. But Shridhar brings Alamkara minus the form, he does not give us the world of sculpted and painted form. The boxes indirectly examine the coexistence of images of the sensuous and the sacred within the common boundaries of various “sacred spaces”.

Maya is art

When understood and experienced in this manner, the world is Maya-maya, "of the stuff of Maya." Maya is "art": that by which an artifact, an appearance, is produced. * The noun maya is related to "measure." It is from the root ma, which means "to measure or lay out instance; to produce, shape, or create; to display." Maya is the measuring out, or creation, or display of forms; maya is any illusion, trick, artifice, deceit, jugglery, sorcery, or work of witchcraft; an illusory image or apparition, phantasm, deception, of the sight; maya is also any diplomatic trick or political artifice designed to deceive.

Maya is Existence: both the world of which we are aware, and ourselves who are contained in the growing and dissolving environment, growing and dissolving in our turn. At the same time, Maya is the supreme power that generates and animates the display: the dynamic aspect of the universal Substance.

Canvasses of energy

Here are a series of embedded thoughts that are made of narrow strips of fragile and pliant strokes that lay stretched in quadruple layers of warps and wefts on the different layers of colour that appear and disappear, bringing up the lower levels to the top, sending it back down the brims of the canvas, bringing it up again in a different way so that it looks like the fiber lines are meshing, tangling, and organically growing together. Before he takes them out of tension, they are aligned to certain gravitational forces that are unseen but hold them together in a lock in embrace that tingles in its minimal moorings.

In the series of buttercup yellow canvasses there is a resonance and a ripple of the suryanamaskar-emanating from the chants of the mantras that Shridhar recites when he is at his rituals-but we also see a subtle and sanguine thematic juxtaposition as the pliant strokes relax and waves of expression happen at intervals both known and unknown. And both the upper and lower reaches are equally balanced. The canvasses in many ways make us think of woven handloom- in traditional loomed weaves you don’t see the warp because the weft insertions cover it. We see that in all the canvasses that unveil as uncanny journeys all the expression is evident, almost like the threads of colour that seep and surge and culminate and clot like the prayers of the devotees that fill the air-all of them are actors on the stage of life and none of them are hidden or lesser-each one has their own role in the chanting of the mantras. They’re all part of the spiritual sojourn that unravels as the oeuvre of deepened esoterics.

The canvasses indicate Shridhar’s intention to go beyond formalism and to convey metaphorical meanings. They reference places he has travelled, people he has known and the gods and goddesses that dwell within and without. These works are as much about ancient citadels of rituals in the valleys and mountains. The weaving of chants and prayers into India’s spiritual culture has about it a humble yet indepth sophistication because it is about an awakening that cannot be put into words. The variety, the vocabulary, the language for constructing and imagining different ways to cross threads of devotion and rituals and connect threads of past and present is what makes the journey one of richness . You also think of simple rituals as a culture that is more than a written language- one that is handed down many generations in different forms. This is what interests me: in these canvasses- we are reminded of the Devnagiri script that is written anywhere-everywhere –even on stones.

In more ways than one this small show is about universality. Yog Maya is a universal thread that binds consciousness. In Rabindranath Tagore’s novel, Gora, the hero says: “I am, above all, an Indian. In me there is no conflict of communities, no struggle between Hindu and Muslim and Christian. They all belong to me and I belong to them all.” In today’s world we must recall Tagore’s “broad humanism and repudiation of all sectarian barriers and prejudices”. Yog Maya is heart with heart,effort with effort the unified samskara.

UMA NAIR
CURATOR