The goal with this series was to turn multi-dimensional memories of sculptures and ornamental paintings of Hindu Gods, into two-dimensional photographs inviting the viewer to consider a photograph as means of spiritual engagement.
The artist Manjari Sharma refers to her camera as her “medium of worship”. She employs it to study, construct and deconstruct the mythologies of her native land India. With Darshan her larger than life solo show now on view locally at the Griffin Museum of Photography, she shares the fruits of that deep worship and inquiry. “The goal was to turn multi-dimensional memories of sculptures and ornamental paintings of Hindu Gods, into two-dimensional photographs. For centuries, the way that we have experienced darshans (metaphysical connection established upon sight) is via laying gaze upon a molded figure, a carved statue or an illustration that represents a likeness to avatars described in Hindu scripture. This series of images invites the viewer to consider a photograph as means of spiritual engagement.”
In Hindu tradition, the creation of the cosmos is credited to Lord Brahma whose image is pictured above right. According to the oldest scriptures, Brahmā is self-born in the lotus flower. Unlike most other Hindu gods, Brahmā holds no weapons. In one hand he holds a veda and in another he holds a string of prayer beads called the ‘akṣamālā’ (literally “garland of eyes”), which he uses to keep track of the universe’s time. Brahma presides over Brahmaloka, a universe that contains all the splendors of the earth and all other worlds.
In a recent gallery talk Ms. Sharma unpacked the all-encompassing process which goes into each of the nine images on view. “To make the imagery for the series, exhaustive research on each character led to the assemblage of a diorama, by a team of approximately thirty-five Indian craftsmen who created props, sets, prosthetics, make-up, costumes, and jewelry to exacting specifications.” The images, all shot with a large format 4X5 camera, are then printed on a massive scale. Their elaborate installation in the Griffin’s Main Gallery only adds to the experience. Through the artist’s grand vision and attention to every detail, she has gifted transformative works which invite the viewer to pause, to breathe and pivot the attention inward.
“By bridging the gap between the significant ceremonies of my parents lives and my own mythology, this series has become my reason to immerse, question and push the boundaries of my faith, not only beyond my imagination, but beyond the very frame that surrounds the photograph.”
Darshan is on view through November 27th as part of the Museum’s Fall Exhibition ZINDAGI, a celebration of daily life and legacy in India. The exhibit also features the work of Priya Kambli, Dan Eckstein, Quintavius Oliver, Mayukh Dam and Julie Williams-Krishnan. The Griffin Museum of Photography is located at 67 Shore Road in Winchester, MA.
Images courtesy of the artist’s and the Griffin Museum’s website(s).