Jointly organized by Dharmesh from Auroville and Kirty from the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, the MAA exhibition was hosted at the Exhibition House of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry and at the Gallery Square Circle, Kala Kendra, in Auroville
Late afternoon, October 6th. I am at the Gallery Square Circle in Kala Kendra. It is the opening of the MAA exhibition, and the halls are already bustling with guests. What drew me to this exhibition was its theme: MAA – the universal Mother, a theme which has been inspiring artists the world over since mankind's first forays into creative expression. The works of over fifty artists (painters being predominant) from Auroville, Pondicherry and the Sri Aurobindo Ashram are on display. All the artists have come together to express the Universal Mother in her diverse forms, human and divine: as woman, mother, nature, energy, Goddess…
After the guests have gone around and looked at the different art pieces, there is a collective invocation. Everyone sits in a circle in the central hall, while a young woman invokes the Universal Mother with Sanskrit chants, accompanied on the flute and sitar by live musicians. Then it is time for refreshments, and the guests discuss the various art pieces on display.
I decide to return to the exhibition a few days later, on Saraswati Puja, the day when the Goddess of learning and the arts is worshipped in India . What I find very interesting is that although there is unity in theme, there is diversity in form, in approach, in expression. The artists participating have worked with and expressed themselves through different media – paint and canvas, glass, ceramic, wood, metal and fabric. The diversity of the various artists' cultural backgrounds and sources of inspiration also shines through in many ways. Some of the pieces are classical, traditional even, in form and technique, others more modern, experimental; some are realist, others more abstract.
Certain pieces drew my attention more than others, and found an echo within me, a certain resonance. The paintings I most enjoyed looking at and which touched me were not necessarily the ones which were made with the greatest technical mastery or accuracy. It was a certain play, in colour, light and form, the suggestion of a certain mood or feeling that drew me to them.
Prabhat Biswas, in his acrylics on canvas, has drawn his inspiration from Hindu mythology.
In his painting ‘Ganesh on mother's lap', Ganesha, the elephant God, is portrayed as a young child, asleep and trusting, in the protective arms of his mother, whose love and tenderness shine through. In another of his paintings, “Mahishasuramardini”, he portrays the fierce aspect of the Mother. The Goddess is depicted slaying the buffalo demon, striking at it with her spear with strength and determination as well as poise and grace. A lot of force emanates from this painting.
In Akmal Hussein's oils on canvas, scenes of village life are depicted. Women are at work in front of their huts while female cows are in the foreground. The surroundings are lush and green. In fact, everything seems bathed in a green light – green the colour of nature and of fertility.
Stephanie has painted the sea and the horizon, in warm shades of turquoise and aquamarine. In the foreground, there is a mother and a child, in each other's arms: “Safe in your arms”. Danasegar S.'s oil on canvas, “Huge Flower”, is very powerful and is a great homage to woman's life giving power. In diffused shades of greens and oranges, a pregnant woman, naked, sits in a squatting position. Is she preparing to give birth?
I found Manoj Dixit's acrylics on sliced wood panels quite fascinating. There are three panels, where three mothers are depicted. There is “the mother of warmth and light”, in reds and gold, suggesting day time and the sun; “the mother of grace and touch”, in shades of turquoise, suggesting the evening, with the moon crescent in the background; and “the mother of dreams and fantasy” in deep blues, suggesting the night, with children in the foreground, the mother bringing on their dreams.
Hufreesh's “The star child” is mysterious and rich in movement. It portrays a mother and child in the cosmos, dancing in a night sky studded with constellations.
In Keiko Mima's “Mother's love for the child”, a sleeping child is depicted in various positions and from different angles. He is oblivious to the world, peaceful and trusting. Though the mother is not depicted, one can feel her presence, her love, her protection.
Julietta's collage, “My mother”, is a mosaic of predominantly black and white photographs of Julietta's mother at different times in her life – as a little girl, an adolescent, a young woman, a wife, a mother, an elderly woman. It tells the story of the different stages in a woman's life, the different roles a woman takes on during her journey, that of daughter, sister, wife, mother… For me, this collage is about time, change and growing old.
There were also a number of pieces at the exhibition which I was not drawn to. Art speaks to different people differently, of course. I found some paintings too ‘new age' in style, and certain depictions of the Mother a little too ‘devotional' and ‘religious'.
I also found the ceramic corner, where some art pieces in metal and some inlay wood work were also displayed, a bit too bare. Though there were few pieces on display, I feel more work could have gone into the installation in that particular corner. Overall, though, I think the exhibition was a great success.
Creation being an essentially feminine process, what better way to present an offering to the Universal Mother than through art…?