Photosculptures by Jaishri Abichandani
May 27 - August 26, 2002
Based on research in Tantra (an aspect of Hinduism) Jaishri has created a series of 4 X 4 feet hand painted photographic prints improvising on the archetypal South Asian forms of Chakras, Yantras and Mandalas. Abichandani uses photographs and self portraits to address contemporary socio-political and existential issues. „Mind‚s Desireš was exhibit earlier this year in Mumbai at Gallery Chemould, one of India‚s leading contemporary art galleries to international acclaim. Vikram Chandra, author of Red Earth and Pouring Rain and Love and Longing in Bombay has penned the introduction to her catalogue. He writes; „Jaishri Abichandani‚s work offers no easy answers to the problems of cultural dislocation and identity in the post modern world. And yet, these objects that contain all her selves and all her histories offer a geometry, a coherent way of looking at these seemingly disparate elements. The beauty that arises from her meditations is itself a unity. Her works are both Yantra and Mandala; they describe and they create and they are alive. And they invite us to participate in the sacrifice, in the meditation.
Statement of Work
Based on extensive research into Tantra (an aspect of Hinduism), I have created a series of nine photosculptures improvising on the ancient South Asian form of Mandalas Yantras.
Yantras and Mandalas are Hindu and Buddhist archetypal tools for meditation. The purpose of a Yantra/Mandala is threefold: it serves as an abstract representation of the universe/cosmos; a representation of the deity one is worshipping and a personal diagram for the owner/artist to meditate upon. The best Yantra/Mandala is the human body.
The Photo-Mandalas I have created use double and triple exposed self-portraits to explore contemporary existential and social/political issues marrying an ancient symbolism to modern representation; history and magic to practical interpretive realities. Six of the Mandalas are based on different Chakras (energy centers in the human body) and three are devoted to female deities.
The process of making the Photo-Mandalas involves using photocopies of images which are collaged, drawn, and painted upon handmade Indian and Nepali paper. Although there is an organic process involved in determining the final shape of the piece, the forms are drawn from ancient Tantric texts that prescribe symbolism to form and color. In contrast, I use freely commodified, contemporary markings of femininity like bindis, nail polish and glitter to enhance the luminescence of the images. Once the collages are completed, they are re-photographed and printed to the final 4x4 ft prints. These prints receive another application of gold and silver, glitter, nail polish, and bindis to create an illusionary, layered surface on each unique print.
Some pieces incorporate original text or excerpts from books on Tantra in Hindi or English. For example, "Svadhishtana Chakra" governs desire and sexuality & incorporates self portraits with images of gay Pakistani male friends in drag.
The text excerpted from Tools for Tantra by Harish Johari states:
"The tantric seers were not puritanical and did not believe in inhibiting or prohibiting certain acts of physiological origins. All physical needs and desires are normal because they are created by the phenomenal world."
It would be easy to read religious sanction for homosexuality in the above excerpt. I am enhancing the subversiveness of the text by including images of Muslim drag queens in a traditionally Hindu and Buddhist form. The tension between text and images responds to personal and political issues such as racism & homosexuality.
I also address the growing religious fundamentalism and intolerance by the governments of India and Pakistan, my immigrant experience in the West (and its commodification of Indian iconography) and lastly, my belief that real spirituality embraces multiplicities of human experience without judgment.