Showing posts with label Shanthi Chandrasekar. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Shanthi Chandrasekar. Show all posts

08 August 2015

Shanthi Chandrasekar

This article appeared in the Gaithersburg Patch on March 5. 2011.
Update: Shanthi Chandrasekar is exhibiting between now and the end of September in a solo show titled "Cosmic Vibrations" at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Rockville: 100 Welsh Park Dr, Rockville, Maryland 20850.

"What do you do if your whole life is a point," asks Shanthi Chandrasekhar, who is a painter with an academic background in physics and psychology. She paints kolam patterns, which in their native setting in Tamil Nadu, India, intend to bring prosperity and longevity to households.

"Women paint the kolam patterns with rice powder outside their doorways. I always lived in an apartment, so I never got to do it as much as I would have like to," said Chandrasekar, who grew up in Chennai and has lived in Bangalore and Singapore before moving to the Unites States.

"The dots represent obstacles that we have to face in our lives. When I paint, I usually put down a grid of dots and then I weave the kolam around them. But what if your whole life were a dot?"

Among the kolams are a series of paintings that feature matrices of women's portraits. Myriads of women in different emotional states, expressing serenity, anger, sadness and myriads of other emotions through their painted countenance, coalesce into what Chandrasekar deems a representation of Shakti, or Energy. In Hindu mythology, Shakthi is the female counterpart of Shiva or Vishnu, the Creator and Destroyer diety. Shakthi represents the creative power of the feminine, and Chandrasekar's paintings of collective female energy operate at the level of scale.

"I could keep on adding to them," she says, as she muses about the powerful effects of a cosmology constructed entirely out of feminine energy.

Tirelessly enthusiastic about producing work and talking about her work, Chandrasekar exudes some of this feminine energy herself. In her home studio, she has canvas upon canvas of artwork covered in kolam linework, ancient and modern scripts from a variety of linguistic backgrounds, and meticulously hand-crafted Tanjore style paintings depicting Krishna, Shiva and Lakshmi among other deities.

"I did some of my Tanjore style paintings while I was pregnant and bed-ridden," said Chandrasekar who does not let anything get in the way of making art.

Her interests in physics, cosmology and culture intersect not only in her kolam paintings, but also in her elements paintings, representing Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Space. Among her works are also a small-scale chakra painting, as well as a number of small kolam paintings in ink.

Otherwise, Chandrasekar works in acrylic and uses gesso to create any relief patterns she requires to evoke energy fields or ripples in time and space.

After a short discussion on wormholes and sunyata (the Hindu/Buddhist concept of emptiness) in front of her Nataraja (or the depiction of Shiva as a cosmic dancer preparing the universe for Brahma's act of creation) set against an endlessly deep phalo blue universe with comsmological concepts like e=mc2 and etched in white paint against the bottomless hue of the background, Chandrasekar mentioned that she loves to paint to music. Some of her pen and ink drawings evoke a loose visual seriality that only musical scores express with consistency.

"My work often plays with direction. In the Shakthi series, I paint some of the faces looking backward, but the overall painting intends to communicate forward motion. As with the kolam, which is impermanent, the nature of reality is such that we look back, not forgetting the past — our roots — while moving forward."

Chandrasekar has introduced five new original kolam designs as part of her current repertoire. Painted against a multichromatic background of ochres, reds, greens and siennas, these kolam patters are modelled according to a pinwheel, a grid, a single vanishing point, and multiple vanishing points. Each takes a slightly different interpretive spin on the kolam tradition while staying true to the basic principles of the line drawing ritual. The dots mark the obstacles and the lines that weave through them remain continuous and uninterrupted.