Painting of the Day (for tomorrow)

2 Jun

Sabari with her Birds. by Atul Dodiya (born 1959). Lithograph and chiri bark paper collage on paper, 2005. Currently on view in the  Madanagopalaswamy Temple Room at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Picture of the Temple Room:

Notes from the caption that accompanies the work in the museum:



My comments:

I visited this museum today and I wanted to revisit its Asian Art collection since I hadn’t seen it in a while. I visited the Temple Room, and this contemporary artwork was on one of the walls in the room, a new addition that hadn’t been on view before. The reason that it is on view in the Temple Room is because it was inspired by the Temple. It’s fascinating to see a two-dimensional and contemporary translation of the Temple. Honestly, this contemporary work is quite difficult for me to understand. The symbolism that the caption points out doesn’t fully make sense to me: for example, why would “her x-ray spinal column” symbolize “the strength of her devotion”? Also, the circles that emanate from the female figure’s mouth like smoke rings are not clear in meaning or symbolism. I really like the work from a purely aesthetic point of view, forgetting any of the symbolism or meaning behind it. I think the patterning that Dodiya painted on the body of the human figure is absolutely gorgeous, and the tripartite color scheme is an exquisite match. I would love to be able to understand this work better so that I could appreciate it more.

On a side note, a very cool experience happened to me at the museum today. While I was in the Temple room, these researchers came up to me who were helping the museum with their reinstallation of the Indian and Himalayan art galleries and they asked me to participate in their research. What I had to do was to go through the Indian and Himalayan art galleries and pretend to be a curator and pick out four art objects and come up with a unifying theme for them. They also asked for my input to see if I had any ideas as to how they should go about the reinstallation. This was incredibly exciting because they were basically asking me to fulfill my dream job! The four objects I picked were related in the sense that they showed animals playing an integral role in the success of the deities as they fight demons. The animals were depicted with equal detail and artfulness as compared to the human figures in each artwork, and they were also shown playing an important part in the story, not merely as food for the humans. When I thought about it, this made sense, since from what little knowledge I have about Hinduism I gather that they treat animals more sacredly than Western cultures, because they believe that animals have souls (hence the possibilities of reincarnation). I also gave the researchers my opinions about how they could better organize the galleries; right now, there is no sense of why the objects are placed as they are in each room. I also recommended that they organize the rooms around themes or in a comparative sense; for example, showing artworks that depict death from different cultures and/or time periods. It was an incredibly fun exercise to engage in and I was so glad to be a part of it.

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