Artist duo Ritu and Surya Singh's art exhibition at Method, Kala Ghoda in Mumbai dives into Kashmiri mystic Lal Ded's feminine wisdom

Artist duo Ritu and Surya Singh's art exhibition at Method, Kala Ghoda in Mumbai dives into Kashmiri mystic Lal Ded's feminine wisdom

Tilted Song to Self, the show honoured ancient feminine wisdom in Wolf’s inimitable style - using scrap, discards, and found objects from Kashmir and around the world

Priyanka ChandaniUpdated: Thursday, October 27, 2022, 04:37 PM IST
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Surya and Ritu Singh |

14th-century Kashmiri mystic, Lal Ded, affectionately called Lalla, has been an inspiration for artists of all forms. Perhaps there isn’t a single Kashmiri who has not heard of Lal Ded. And as she ages with time, her old writings take a new shape and become a voice for many artistic creations. The recent being Song to Self, an art exhibition by Wolf at Method art gallery in Kala Ghoda, Mumbai presented by Baro Market. 

Tracing her path through fields and forests towards enlightenment, the artwork reflected Lal's vakhs (words) honouring ancient feminine wisdom. As an extraordinary individual who rose high above the small concerns and bondage of society in her pursuit of self-realisation, Lal's vakhs came alive through the exceptional and meticulous artworks by artist duo Surya and Ritu Singh from Rajasthan. We recently visited the art studio only to feel intimidated by the extraordinarily research-based artwork. 

We see the walls laced with colourful art pieces, each depicting the introspective meaning of Lal Ded's vakhs, revolving around the age of a feminine awakening. "We traveled to Kashmir looking for Lal Ded, to hear her songs amidst the mighty deodars. We followed the sounds of nature, voicing her words as we walked amidst large open spaces. It left a deep impression, and created space," begins Ritu, who gave us detailed information about each art work, meaning more than just an art piece.

Interestingly, the art pieces have been made with spare parts of wristwatches, conches, shells, and chains which are depicted as a symbol to look inwards and inner awakening. As we started our exploration of the art pieces, we were hooked to a huge statue of a green goddess, Matangi (an avatar of tantric Saraswati) which depicts the power of chakra in a human body. Representing Lal Ded's words in Kashmiri woven into the art, the artists chose to use objects that are used to weave jacquard and conch along with hooded snakes representing awakening.

Most of the artworks were made using scraped materials reflecting the artists' extraordinary knowledge of the details and metaphorical representations. "We were trying to depict the new world through Lalla's words where there is no religion and gender," says Ritu as she explained the importance of a water pot as a churning of energies placed right in the middle of the exhibition centre decorated with lots of mirrors as a reflection of Lalla's artwork. "We wanted to dream a new world where everyone is evolved and changed in their thoughts," she said.

It took about a year for Ritu and Surya to complete the artwork with the meticulously sourced materials and a lot of explaining to the artisans, as we found a lot of intricate details with x-ray sheets, shells, clothes, and flowers among many other creative objects that represent the meaning of the Kashmiri poetess' words of inner awakening. "When we started our journey as artists, the first idea was to re-use scrap material. It has to be pre-loved things of people to make the objects, so they can be more relevant."

A little ahead we are reminded of seven chakras and seven notes of music through art pieces depicting the spine as a route reaching to the higher awakening. Each object was made of many different foliage, flowers, and materials reflecting the idea of healing coming from nature. Other materials used to depict the intricate meanings of Lal's poetries were poppy seeds, shells, metal scraps, and palms to reflect the Deodar trees of Kashmir. "Every year our artwork gets more deeper and intricate," says Ritu when we acknowledged that their artwork involves a lot of details.

Utterances, another art piece highlighted the importance of voicing the intent to let it come to you. A lot of unused old coins were used to make this art piece. "All the objects come to us. It's like the serendipity of objects because they want us to tell their stories," mused the artist as she took us through another art piece, Attune boasting a lot of chains as snakes and radio with frequency and antenna depicting the idea of kundalini energy. The artists chose to use rice to depict celebration and rituals representing the sharing nature of the corp.

There was Circling Back, a visual translation of Lalla's vakh about circling back made of a map and saffron flowers painted on the map also etched with mirror and lakh works with small feet representing Lalla walking in a saffron field. Depicting the importance of bringing in feminine and masculine energies for the recreation, Shiva Shakti, an art piece was made using a wooden buttermilk whisker likened to a feminine representation and a snake entwined within representing the masculine power being together.

We stepped up to the second floor of the art studio only to have an intimate experience of Lal Ded's mystic words. The art pieces here evoked feminine power combined with Ritu and Surya's work and the words of Lal Ded. Depicting the word eraser and turning it into 'era sure' an art piece reflected the change of women who are ready to concur the world. "The story took place when I read an article that said the USA is erasing the word woman to be inclusive and politically correct," Ritu said explaining to us the idea behind dreaming of a more inclusive world. A small cupboard of Cure was dedicated to all the women who have healed diseases for years. The artwork depicted the centuries-old idea of healing comes from nature. "When we came last year I had to take a vaccine which I didn't want to so I wanted to speak about that and request to find alternatives to heal," she said.

We concluded our walk by taking a mental picture of a huge art piece, Aflame, a Dakini inspired by Buddhist tantric imagery. Dedicated to female teachers and practitioners as shining examples of dedication, compassion, and realisation. Dakini represented the power within women which can reveal the magic that is hidden within. The art piece was made using materials like found wooden sculpture scrap jewellery waste acrylic sheets metals scrap brass back, and scratchers.

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