Art as an Insight to Asia’s Shared Cultures
The woman meditating by a waterfall near Luang Prabang, Laos, seemed oblivious to the rush of water behind her as she remained deep in thought and contemplation.
Taken by Indian photographer Vivek Bammi, the photo speaks volumes about the transitory nature of life, as seen in the shots of waters running through the rocks that make up her surroundings.
Bammi captured a similar effect with his take on a young man reclining amid a mass of rocks. Taken on a plateau in eastern India, the picture aptly captures humans’ small place in nature’s scheme of things.
The photographs are part of “Rasa,” an exhibition held at the Duta Fine Arts Gallery in Kemang, South Jakarta.
Held as part of the Festival of India in Indonesia event, the exhibition features 40 photographs by Bammi and 21 charcoal paintings by his sister Mini Naidoo.
“The ‘Rasa’ exhibition sought to highlight the essence of Indian culture on other Asian countries like Laos, Nepal and as far afield as Japan,” Bammi said.
“The works show positive images and emotions, in line with the way India spread its influence in culture like religion, art or ideas in a peaceful, tolerant manner. The way we spread those elements made it easier for others to integrate it into their culture.
“The number 61 is based on the Indian tradition of adding an extra one for luck. It also marks my 60th birthday.
“The mediums that we chose for the ‘Rasa’ exhibition reflect the contrasting vision between Mini and I. The detailed, painstaking work of charcoal paintings is ideal for capturing the vibrancy of its subjects, whereas photographs are my way of capturing my subjects’ soul,” Bammi explained.
Mini’s approach is perhaps epitomized in her work “Tribal Dwelling” and “Grace.”
The former’s highlighting of geometric, yet natural and organic shapes show the natural sense of symmetry seen in the work of indigenous tribes like Australian Aboriginals or Papuan tribes, like the Asmat and Kamoro.
The dancing girls and musicians in “Grace” and “Becoming the Wind” capture the vibrancy of the music and movement of the performances.
Featuring traditional performers from the northeast Indian region of Assam where Bammi and Mini grew up, the dynamic notion of movement is also captured by the vivid tinge of red, which contrasts with the stark shading of the charcoal.
On the other hand, Mini’s work “Bali Dancer, Eye Language” captures the splendor of Balinese dances, as it vividly recreates the dancer’s dress.
For his part, Bammi’s photographs conveyed the impact of Indian culture on the rest of Asia, an element that has much in common with the Indian government’s “Look East” policy of bolstering ties with other Asian countries.
His serene photos of nature in Kyoto, Japan and Luang Prabang, Laos poignantly show India’s influence on belief and spirituality in the rest of Asia.
“The closeness with nature shown in Japanese Zen Buddhism reflect how those precepts were unchanged from the moment brought from India. It also influenced their more indigenous belief of Shintoism, which once again reflects how well integrated our belief systems are to other cultures” said Bammi of a photograph in Kyoto.
Featuring a carp making its way on a pond, the waters also reflected the various shades of yellowing leaves.
The gradation of colors and lilies on the pond show the influence of Impressionist masters like Matisse, while his deft look at the commonality of cultures also show his skill as an anthropologist.
Equally striking are his photos of monks in Luang Prabang, Laos. One photo of monks lining up for food is an apt metaphor for their role in filling the locals’ spiritual needs. Another image of an elderly monk teaching a novice acolyte the finer points of woodworking show how traditions carried on.
His images from the holy Indian city of Varanasi, the Sikh Golden Temple of Amritsar, as well as Nepal also show much about the place of religion and spirituality in Asia.
Whether it be Vaishnavites or ascetics deep in contemplation, temple rituals or cremations, the works ask many questions about the commonalities of Asia.
Through April 15
Duta Fine Arts Gallery
Jalan Kemang Utara No. 55, South Jakarta
Open daily from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Tel. 021 7197528
Source: The Jakarta Globe