KOCHI: Two years ago, French artist Catherine Stoll Simon visited a church at Argenteuil in France where a tunic of Christ, called the seamless robe, was being exhibited after a gap of many years. Catherine, who was on a spiritual journey herself, felt inspired. Such tunics, according to her, were able to convey a lot about traditions and beliefs about different religions, which is why she decided to convert it into a project.
Her series about ‘spiritual clothes’ which she is working on at the Kashi Art Gallery in Kochi is an exploration of the tunics worn by Christian priests, Hindu monks, and Muslim clerics, among others.
“I have just started working on my project and plan to spend two months at the gallery exploring this theme. The first part of my series will focus on the clothes worn by Christ and the priests. For the work, I have brought jute material all the way from Paris. I have designed the robe and used different colours on them after which I put them on the canvas,” she says.
Catherine says the series will focus on the saffron cloth worn by Hindu monks, the kesa worn by Lord Buddha who inspired the Buddhist monks’ tunic, and the Muslim talismanic tunics which have the Koranic calligraphy. The ceremonial vestments worn by shamans who believe in the ancient practice of worshipping nature will also be explored.
The artist says that in every spiritual tradition, clothes are much more than covering and protecting or used as aesthetic ornaments. “Instead, they are full of symbolic meanings, especially simplicity, humbleness (the poor and deteriorated material of Christ’s or Buddha’s tunic, for instance) or external signs of spiritual power and magic strength (for instance, animal’s skin, feathers and metal parts used by the shamans),” says Catherine, who also worked as a stress therapist.
With the help of iron wire meshes and acrylic paint on water, Catherine is also creating images of high-rise buildings and skyscrapers to bring a sharp contrast between modernity and spirituality. “This imagery of these towering buildings in New York City is in sharp contrast to the simple life led by those who find a spirituality within themselves,” she said. “There is a social message I wish to pass on. People need to look within themselves and see whether they are becoming too materialistic. We need to live for our next generation and ensure that we don’t waste all our resources.”
Her series about ‘spiritual clothes’ which she is working on at the Kashi Art Gallery in Kochi is an exploration of the tunics worn by Christian priests, Hindu monks, and Muslim clerics, among others
With the help of iron wire meshes and acrylic paint on water, Catherine is also creating images of high-rise buildings and skyscrapers to bring a sharp contrast between modernity and spirituality