The collages presented below are from a larger body of work by Ichha Bhojani called ‘Ever After’. Bhojani is deeply influenced by her personal, social and spiritual beliefs as a member of the Baha’i Faith. According to the Faith, the body is believed to be a transient vehicle for the eternal soul. Thus, nurturing the soul through service, in order to ensure its movement towards the spiritual ideal, is one of the fundamental practices of members of the Baha’i community. Drawing on the principles and teachings of the Faith, particularly in regard to the enduring nature of the soul, the works in this series, throw the corporeal and the ethereal in sharp contrast.
The digital and physical palimpsests that form this body of work draw primarily on the artist’s personal archive of architectural photographs and urban snapshots, taken in her hometown, Mumbai, and various other cities around the world over the course of several years. Photographs of familiar and unknown sites in Mumbai and London are ‘mashed up’ with images from Brighton and Haifa, Marrakech and Zanzibar, to create unique settings for the artist’s interventions. After digitally stitching two or more of these largely black and white photographs together to form her base images, Ichha then creates a collage, by further cutting and pasting several layers atop each one.
Though they appear simple at first, these carefully constructed and meticulously placed images invite viewers to meditate on the dichotomies between physical and spiritual, transient and timeless, restraint and abandon. In these works, Ichha provides avenues and doorways through which they may step beyond the confines of the present and the physical, and interrogate their conceptions of permanence.
Set against urban scenes and structures, cutouts of open windows, seaside benches and winding staircases offer alternatives and escapes from the norm to a different ‘Ever After’. Upside down buckets and bright blue windows bring new life to shadowy industrial interiors, and a lone tree interrupts the rigid linearity of stone wall and the repetitive pattern of a metal grille. Adding to the ideas that the juxtaposed images and inserted elements in each frame suggest, are the artist’s silver lines of sight, which draw horizons out beyond the ones we imagine. In doing so, the limits we perceive are extended to multiple vanishing points that exist beyond the frame and, by extension, beyond the physical realm.
Transcending the inspiration and origins of these works, however, is their aesthetically striking composition, and the quiet beauty that Ichha captures in each image. Noting that their appeal is likely to be subjective, Ichha states, “These photographs will mean different things to different people. My hope though is that viewers permit me to ask just one question; how would you live your life if you knew that the physical body was merely a vehicle for a spirit with a much higher purpose?”
– Nishad Avari