This art installation by artist Shilo Shiv Suleman glows when you breathe on it

  • Soma Das, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Oct 24, 2015 14:57 IST
The artworks are fitted with sensors which make them glow every time you breathe on them

Beloved, Bengaluru-based artist Shilo Shiv Suleman’s (26) latest body of work, is a labour of love: fittingly, it revolves around the heart. The artworks are fitted with sensors which make them glow every time you breathe on them. While this is fantastical, it is not surprising: after all, Suleman’s works are known to be interactive and to combine magical realism with technology.

“I have been interested in the human body for years, and have collaborated with neuroscientists to incorporate technology to monitor heartbeat or brainwaves in my art. That’s how my previous work, Pulse and Bloom, emerged,” Suleman shares.

She is referring to the installation she created for the arts festival, Burning Man (2014), held annually in Nevada, USA. It featured a grove of steel lotuses with sensors which lit up to the pulse. “It was a challenge because Pulse and Bloom was set up in the middle of the desert.

There were hailstorms and thunderstorms, and these are sensitive electronics,” she says, adding, “The idea was inspired by what happens to the body when we are in love and our hearts are in sync.” Interestingly, her life-sized installation saw four couples get married under it.

Pulse and Bloom installation at Burning Man festival by Shilo

Beloved is in continuation of the Pulse and Bloom series, but with a focus on breath. The present collection has 12 vividly painted wood-cut murals and watercolour paintings and two installations. “The exhibits are inspired by the Koran, Kannada Bhakti poet Mahadevi Akka, and the 12th century epic Gita Govinda by Jayadeva. The images are a metaphor to diverse strands of mythology,” she explains.

Her part-Hindu, part-Muslim background is highlighted with the use of symbols. “I draw from both religions and find a space in between. There are verses in the Koran that speak of the sky opening up like a rose which I have included as a visual,” says Suleman.

Another integral aspect of her art is magic realism to highlight the interconnectedness of humans with nature. The roots of it go back to her childhood. “I was a flower child with a hundred theories about everything. I thought the moon followed me home and I had a relationship with the butterflies in my backyard. Life was a magical place; even the ordinary had an element of magic,” she reflects.

Let Down Your Hair, acrylic and papercut on archival paper, by Shilo

Her vivid imagination led her to turn illustrator for children’s books (at age 16). She has also created Khoya, an iPad app that links technology and adventure for children, which she presented at TED Global, Scotland (2011). She has also designed stages for events like TED Talks, INK Talks and NH7 Weekender.

Surprisingly, despite the focus on technology, Suleman emphasises that she is a technophobe, which is why she teams up with neuroscientists. Suleman’s mother Niloufer is also an artist, and the vocation binds them together: “My mother started painting when I was young and I grew up painting by her side. Our deepest connect is through art.”

Though her work delves on fantasy, Suleman believes that art in public spaces can bring about social change. “I was in Delhi when the 2012 gang rape took place. The fearmongering led me to start The Fearless Collective, which brings together artists and activists. So far, we have worked in Nepal, Lebanon and Pakistan,” she says, adding, “Art needs to belong to people. It can be out on the street, at home, even on the iPhone.”

Don’t Miss

What: Beloved is ongoing till November 20.

Where: Art Musings, Colaba

Call: 2216 3339

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