Although COVID-related restrictions have slackened and many people have become used to a world post-pandemic, the brutal impact of the coronavirus is still fresh in everyone’s mind. "I have been physically separated from my partner because of COVID for almost two years now. I miss him; my art is a representation of the COVID crisis and our separation," says artist Waswo X.
Waswo. The 67-year-old artist's work, in collaboration with Rajasthani miniaturist R Vijay, is a dream-like - almost imaginary - telling of the reunion with his partner. A triptych, the piece is presented at an exhibition at Mehrauli's Ojas Art Gallery in collaboration with The Yuva Ekta Foundation. Starting today, the exhibition will have works of 15 other artists, and can be viewed till November 7.
Flights of imagination
'The Conference of The Birds' is homage to an epic poem by Sufi poet Farid-ud-Din Attar. The Persian poem narrates a tale of the assembly of birds during an existential crisis, and their journey through seven valleys in search of the mythical bird, the legendary Simorgh.
The artists showcasing in this exhibition were each offered one of the valleys mentioned in the poem - Quest, Love, Understanding, Detachment, Unity, Astonishment and Enlightenment - to explore through their works.
Just like the literary work, this exhibition is a confluence by indigenous and contemporary urban artists searching for enlightenment amid a global crisis. "The visual artists are connected to each other through their common language; a lot of the works speak to each other in a unique and beautiful way," says Ojas Art Gallery curatorial director Anubhav Nath.
Wings of creativity
Of the artists who have their works displayed here, the sculptures of Vadodara-based Sudipta Das are based on the Valley of Unity. The 36-year-old's work is centred on the concept of human migration, displacement, and separation.
Originally from Assam, Das tries to look at the emotional circumstances behind human migration. The universality of the concept behind 'The Conference of The Birds' resonated with her. Captioned 'Crossing Over', Das attempts to correlate the migration of birds with that of humans, in the form of three-dimensional paper sculptures.
“The idea of unity was present in this. Even in migration, there is a sense of unity attached to the shifting group. While my work represents displacement, the fact that both birds and humans migrate as a group gives a sense of hope,” iterates the sculptor.
Karnataka-based award winning artist GR Iranna adapts his idea from an environmental perspective. Iranna’s painting of the flowering red cherry blossom and a person sitting on a wooden horse refers to how people are now missing real nature to enjoy lifeless, inanimate objects.
According to him, people are killing nature for the sake of progress and development. In fact, resembling his painting, people can now only sit on dead wooden horses imagining them [the lifeless objects] to be alive. "The sparrows from my childhood have disappeared completely. In nature, everything is balanced. So many things have been lost in the name of development. We have lost that balance," points out Iranna.
Each artist has a unique way of sharing their interpretation of Valleys. Waswo X. Waswo, for instance, uses doves and Oriental imagery like a flying carpet and meditation to portray the Valley of Love. The exhibition is universal in terms of the artists and their ideas; representing how we’re very similar during times of crisis.