Seema Kohli grew up listening to anecdotes and stories of her father’s younger days spent in what is now Pakistan. As revered hakims of Pind Dadan Khan, a city in the Jhelum district, her ancestors held definitive sway in the local scheme of things.
All that remains of this formidable legacy are photographs, and a heartfelt account of those days, penned by her late father Krishnan Dev Kohli, in his autobiographical book Mitar Pyaare Noo. This was the inspiration behind Seema’s travelling performative series Project Home: The Word for the World is Home.
Conceptualised in 2019, this exhibit sees Seema perform live in collaboration with a group of movement artists. She recites passages from her father’s autobiography that is still in the works, as visual projections of curated images taken from her family’s photo archives reflect on the physical space as well as the performers’ bodies.
“It is an attempt at representing my family’s story through the de-cluttered lens of a curated assemblage of my family’s history of their involuntary displacement as one of many in undivided Punjab,” the Delhi-based artist says, adding, “It’s interesting to see intimate narratives as such could act as a mnemonic for the audience of their own experiences, and unlock possibilities for a real human connection unbound by judgment or intellect.”
The work has been performed at a number of venues around the country and abroad, with its most recent show this June at Asia Society Hong Kong, where it was presented by Teamwork Arts India By The Bay Festival. Project Home is merely indicative of Seema’s wide repertoire. At the recently concluded India Art Fair (IAF) in Delhi, she presented a diverse range to much fanfare. Her first artist serigraph book, gold leaf on paper drawings, and some of her iconic bronze sculptures of goddesses–– Saraswati, Sohamsa, and Maheshwari––were on display at the Art Heritage gallery booth at the fair.
Titled Storm in My Teacup, her book captures the intimacy of conversations over a cup of tea. “This book is about the cyclical nature of energies and our relational existence within this matrix. As the title suggests, the storm stems from inner, outer, and out-of-body experiences,” the artist explains.
In addition to these, Seema also dabbled in digital media with her film Enter Stillness, which was on display at Techne Disruptors, a digital show curated by Myna Mukherjee. The video was on display alongside her painting of the same name, which showed hundreds of eyes peering back at the gazer, evoking feelings of personal introspection.
Next on the cards for this prolific artist is a showing of her works in London at SA Fine Arts gallery in October. “My work centers around beauty, sensuality, and spirituality which stem from particular concepts known for their universalities. To create something that extends beyond the canvas or performance even, and within my very being as an artist who is a seeker,” Kohli says.
Her Recent art exhibits
Traveling performative exhibition Project Home: The Word for the World is Home, which was last showcased at Asia Society Hong Kong
Artist serigraph book Storm in My Teacup captures the intimacy of conversations over a cup of tea
A digital film and painting Enter Stillness at Techne Disruptors, a parallel event to the India Art Fair