‘If my mind isn’t free then I cannot be an artist’

Seema Kohli
Seema Kohli, 51, Artist, Photo: Rahul Karan

WHO This Delhi-born-and-based artist got her Diploma in Applied Arts (ITI) from South Delhi Polytechnic, New Delhi. Her works are steeped in the feminine body, subjectivity and sexuality. She was awarded the Lalit Kala Akademi National Award for Women in 2007. She has exhibited at A Jain Marunouchi Gallery, New York, Gallery Art and Soul, Mumbai, and The Nehru Centre, London, among others.
What is the one incident that changed or formed your artistic vision?
My vision is the result of childhood stories my grandfather told me. My works are a witness to the visual interpretation of his experiences and his perspective towards life. His stories of mythology gave my mind the wings to go into the world of the fantastical.
As an artist, do you subscribe to societal notions of sex and love?
I never like to be influenced by societal norms. The choice to be an artist was to say what I want to through my art, to be true, free and liberated in mind. If I am not that then the very basis of my choice is negated.
What would be the magnum opus that you’ve never created?
Art is a process of realising my thoughts. If a thought comes to my mind, then the artwork has already been created in my mind. What is left is putting pen to paper, to show it to the world. As such, I have never felt an inability to translate my thoughts to paper but the struggle is to always take my work to a greater level of execution.
The circle of life Golden Womb 1 by Seema Kohli
The circle of life: Golden Womb 1 by Seema Kohli

What’s been your greatest moment of distress or exhilaration?
The birth of my children gave me the greatest joy. It was the first time I was part of the miracle of life so closely. The realisation that I had lost the physical presence of my mother in my life was a moment of great distress.
What is the one demon you grapple with in your deepest relationships?
The fear of losing them.
Tell me a little about your leitmotif, the golden womb.
It refers to sun, that source of constant positive energy, which rejuvenates and recycles all elements in this universe, making death a transitory space in this mysterious journey of unending life. I am amazed at this untiring rhythm of creation by the Golden Womb.
Aradhna Wal is a Trainee, Features with Tehelka.