Two Birds by US-based artist Siri Khandavilli

Two Birds, Siri Khandavilli

New Delhi: “Completely in control of my work, body and gaze, I declare that I am my own muse. There is nothing passive here” is the passionate belief of US-based artist Siri Khandavilli who is in India for her upcoming solo exhibition titled Two Birds that promises to strike a chord with every art lover this winter.

Art Exhibition previously on in India.
From Wednesday 28 January 2009 to Wednesday 04 February 2009
Launch Wednesday 28 January 2009, 11 a.m. - 7 p.m. (IST)

Border Issues image

Published by anonymous on Tuesday 27 January 2009.
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The exhibition that comprises a combination of video-works and paintings (acrylics on paper) will be held at Open Palm Court Gallery, India Habitat Centre from January 28, 2009 to February 4, 2009.

Born in Mysore, Siri Khandavilli is the daughter of N. Lakshminarayan who was a renowned Kannada film director of his times. She migrated to US and studied new media arts, video & 3D modeling at Arizona State University (ASU). Her works have been exhibited at short film festivals in ASU, Harrywood Gallery (both at Tempe), Modified Art Gallery (Phoenix), SIGGRAPH (San Diego), and Art Junction (New Delhi). Currently the artist stays, commutes and creates between India and USA.

Siri Khandavilli is an inter-media artist working in the realms of video art, paintings and installations. About her influence, she says: “Personally, there is an extreme attachment to the worldly, but I do question how important these really are! I call it looking at the ‘Big Picture’!”

So while Siri accepts that she, like any other young person of her age, worries about under-eye wrinkles, finances, pollution, global economy et al and yet, as an artist, seeks to transform these concerns onto a canvas that is far more ethereal and metaphysical.

The overall effect of her works is a feeling of the material world beginning to merge into the metaphysical. As the artist explains “My definitions, desires, politics, opinions and issues are literally painted against the backdrop of the Big Picture.” In this manner, her works become very personal, poetic and at the same time socio-political. Conceptually, there is duality and unity, contradiction and agreement in her works. It is the conflict between the nuances of worldly attachment and spiritual detachment that defines her canvas.

It is her video works, however, that foremost highlight the sensuous and the spiritual quality of her art. Sometimes ‘performances for the camera’ form the raw footage of her work. The unconventional use of intense colors, space, scale and strange juxtapositions combine to create a mesmerizing effect.

For instance, Two Birds is a video installation which occupies an intimate space created by the panels and walls in the gallery. The viewer needs to enter a narrow and personal space to view two videos facing each other through circular openings at the eye level. The first video consists of the artist’s face layered with a fleshy, orange-yellow mango. The face in this video faces and observes the other video where the artist is immersed in consuming a mango. The music and the visuals combine to create an effect that may be described as sensuous to some and spiritual or meditative to others.

Shares Set to Rise is another video that starts in black and white showing a drive in a mountainous area. The dull rocky terrain is slowly replaced by the beautiful sunset. The background plays radio financial news as the image starts flickering and the viewer begins to see a stylized chart tracking the stock market merge in and out of the sunset scene. The video and audio abruptly stop with the beginning of serene music and surreally beautiful sunset scene against the backdrop of majestic mountains. The artist explains: “This work originated on one of my many drives amidst the beautiful Ahwatukee mountains in Arizona, where I live. During these drives I listened to financial news on the radio. The silhouette of the mountains and the stock market’s graphs started looking similar to me. I observed the beautiful colors of Arizona sunsets and sunrises thinking about the stock market’s rise and fall. Two extremes that seemed unrelated and incompatible seemed to merge and diverge in this everyday experience. The consumptive thoughts of economy were punctuated by moments of joy in the realm of metaphysical.”

Like her videos, Siri’s paintings are also vivid in color. In her paintings, one can witness the abandon and joy of painting as well as the restraint needed for drawings. The intricate drawings in her paintings depict everyday objects, people and mundane sceneries as microscopic objects. The flattened 2-D quality of her work speaks of a clear influence of Indian traditional painting and a love for tribal arts.

Her paintings are usually small in size and are meant to be hung together in a series. The bold usage of red, black, blue and yellow colors addresses issues of human concern. Colonies 1, Blue Skies Floating in the Red, Red Cells Blue Cells & Scratch and Sniff Layers of Reality are just the few examples that signify her response to various world issues. Inspired from the encounters of daily life situations, she links material worry to a non material experience.

Expressing a similar theme of human predicament is her work titled Border Issues that portrays how trivial the idea of ownership of land and place becomes when placed against the backdrop of the ‘Big Picture’. Her work titled Sansex and Sunsets is similar to her video-work titled Shares Set to Rise as both link material worries to a very non-material experience of being immersed in the divinity of sunsets.

She further adds: “In all my work, I allow myself to be influenced by places around me and the situations that I encounter, this helps me break away from prejudice and stylization of any sort. My paintings are a confluence of spontaneity in its process contrasting against drawings that are executed on the painting’s surface. These drawings make everyday objects and scenes look like objects visible under microscope, or, say through a telescope. Some of the paintings are independent modules, put together as a single unit, as an afterthought. Fragmented, yet the whole remains the summary of these works.”