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Looking In (2013)

In this new series of her works titled “Looking In”, the viewer actually is tempted to look into the sculptures. Lalitha’s intention with this series of works is to literally translate at the physical level, what an individual probably experiences in a contemplative state of mind. With simple lines and distinctly patinated colors of her bronzes, she tries to bring forth the subtle meanings and interpretations of the spiritual concepts of the manifestations in reality and non-duality. Her intention is to provoke a certain intrigue, inquisitiveness and introspection in every individual viewer.

Comment by Trena Noval - California College of the Arts, San Francisco

In walking the paths of our everyday lives, we push our bodies through space. Heel to toe, we walk the wide outer places we inhabit where we take in the world, feel things, smell, taste and see, in order to build the interior spaces for our personal interpretations and perceptions to come into consciousness. As individuals, we create this interior world to make meaning of what we see and take in through our bodies. It is in these interpretations that we begin to form the place where the spiritual takes the shape of tangible concepts.

We make connections based on what we know – the gathering of evidence from near and distant pasts, and through our own encounters of both living and inanimate things, we compose and produce knowledge. We are driven to construct a sense of beauty, a sense of belonging and a sense of purpose that make us human. Observation and reflection become deeply honed as we allow ourselves to travel deeper into this interior, to feel and make connections to not only our physical world but build a conceptual world of values that fulfill our need for belonging, understanding and making connections to others. This is how we create history on this earth. 


Lalitha Shankar has been exploring the relationship between the exterior and the interior for most of her artistic career. And it is her highly developed skills of observation and reflection that have taken her to this new place of Looking In. Through her new body of work, she has refined her understanding of art-making to the point where she makes effortless connections for us, as her willing audience, into our own glimpse of spiritual and philosophical positions in this world, in whatever form they take. But these new works do not stem from a stagnate experience for us – we are asked to enter, cross borders, physically move our bodies, touch and move tangible pieces of sculpture, and create newly constructed spaces to reflect on our own values and relationships. Shankar’s use of materials tell the story of her journey and start a new path for ours. We see the marks of her hand and her process on the surfaces. Through her manipulation of textures and colors, she invites us into an interior world - one where we begin to explore our own thinking from new perspectives, perhaps challenged by what we don’t know.

Then again under close observation and reflection, we begin to take new risks and step in to participate. As viewers/participants, we make a commitment to experience the work with our body, mind and spirit. Through Shankar’s work, we discover and follow our own path of curiosity, create new conduits of knowledge, and moving our bodies towards deeper understanding and presence in our every changing world.

Comment by Natesh Muthuswamy - Artist from Chennai, India

The abstraction of Spirituality as understood by every human being is a reductionist proposition. It is an inevitability coming from everyone’s inherent sediment of spirit that yearns for expression only in rare moments even when one is constantly in touch with oneself! Not many are articulate of the spirit in a way one would talk of delicacies in cuisine! In an international almanac that holds all souls that tested the spirit, one could get to see a multiplicity of methods, especially the modes of expression that signify such multiplicity.

Hence the popular reductionist perception is just a paucity of time available for anyone to engage in it as if it were something external! In this context of Lalitha’s exhibition of her works it is the expression of spirituality that needs to be talked about; the reason why I insist on the human spirit’s multiplicity. Tantrics’ ritualistic mandalas are expressions of their spirit with the aesthetic edge of it as perceived by us being purely incidental. It is the curt immediacy of expression that renders simplicity to line and form that ‘contain’ this abstraction.

Lalitha’s continuing engagement with yoga makes this abstraction very organic in an Indian way. In these minimal zones of representation if one could be pardoned for calling it the geometry of the spirit, then I wish to see a seated being in the ‘pyramidal’ structures that are wedded to cuboids that accommodate a tiny sphere. Terse and taut her lines adorn her spirit’s geometry. Making her pyramids sit up and tolerate the tiny sphere. It is this resolution, the resolution as in this sphere that embodies the intrigue! When the triangular containers lie flat and tolerate the sphere the utility quotient of having to contain is ritually annihilated. There can’t be something as minimal which checks utility casting a spell of restraint on our need to use. And the mystique of the triangle made to rest as a slab next to the container that tolerates the sphere reinforces introspection; not as Lalitha's introspection but the urgency of the human need to sense the non-dual.

This story which I read in her work marks her philosophy. Posing a stringent reminder for us to sense the non-dual, for it is in duality that utility resides. The parallel strings that striate the upright triangular container re-insists a basic fact that the body is a container of the spirit; with the tiny sphere demanding a reference point for itself. If you were to contest my perception of calling it a container, my question is some other geometrical or amorphous form could have held the tiny sphere. She establishes the non-dual by suggesting the duality of another similar form that exhibits its other side. The tiny sphere remains a reference point reminding us of its agility and mobility that it contains in its very geometry. It is the open mystique of perception that she perseveres to present since it is its duality that triggers utility, irony, paradox and resignation. With the non-dual as she presents freedom automatically resides not as a question but as a possibility. Residing in essence as experiential spaces in the topography of her work.

Comment by Jyotsna Narayan - Classical Dancer from Chennai, India

Lalitha’s art breathes. Her fingers feel for her bronze even as she patterns with her heart. For over three decades I have admired the way my friend has traveled this arduous path of art and creativity with a deep sense of commitment to her art – her own journey moving from an experiential exploration of the physical form to wanting to understand the quieter designs of inner space. And, to this, her journey as an artist, she has added the sensitivity of her study of yoga, classical music and dance, allowing all this richness to breathe into the tonality of her own art.

Today, Lalitha’s lines, her patterns, her colors, her textures all pulsate with her quest to feel the energy of that sacred geometry - that beautiful pattern and rhythm common to all art, to all philosophy, to all life...

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