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A potent overview loaded with nuances

Artists do not manifest themselves in a single medium. As one begins the journey of creative expression, various disciplines, materials and processes come in the way for a practitioner. The ideas explored, thus, find newer ways to be expressed. Visual artist Seema Kohli in her four-decade-long career has had it no different. Trained as a painter, her language has expanded to explore mark making through drawing, painting and printing, as well as lens-based work using photography and videos, 3D objects using cast metal and, more recently, performative pieces. At the core remains her quest to find herself. Her references are her memories and learnings from a highly stimulated upbringing, and her book, Restless Lines in the Art of Seema Kohli, is both an archive and a memoir of her journey thus far.

It is broadly divided into two main sections that follow the elaborate introduction authored by Annapurna Garimella. As the editor, she attempts to review and discuss the flow of the various chapters. She also shares her experience of the making of the book itself.

The first section is titled ‘The Body is Her Studio’. Figure and the human body are critical elements in Kohli’s work. She believes that the soul is significant, but for it to live and manifest itself, it has to come together with the body. In her repertoire, the physicality of the body, therefore, takes an equal importance. Writer Adwait Singh in his essay,

‘The Body as an Egg’, references Kohli’s work as genderless, and one with the cosmos. “Often in transition, transaction or translation, the body of Kohli’s work becomes difficult to isolate from the environs,” he writes. In continuation, Amruta Patil writes a piece, titled ‘I Go to the Studio Like One Goes to a Beloved’. For Kohli, her own appearance and work are intricately intertwined. She believes that there is a direct bearing of how she looks and how her studio receives her.

“When we pay attention to how we look while meeting other people, why must we not treat the studio with similar emotion? After all, it is the most important ‘relationship’ for an artist,” she says. In the essay, ‘Anamnesis of an Artist’, Sindhura D Manjunath discusses the history and recollection of all that informs Kohli’s work. She elaborates this through the process of making, the physical space of the studio, and the body.

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