A good work of art is not to be seen in isolation, even if it is complete in itself as a whole and capable of opening the doors to the eternal. It is always an integral part of a larger context and this invisible context can reveal deeper insights into the same work of art.
There is always a beginning, a timeless moment in time, carrying with it, like a seed, a creative and transformative potential that would unfold in the works of an artist. When an artist is able to capture such a moment in his life, it provides the fuel for his creative journey, the inspiration, the fire, the awakening ray from the eternal Source. If the artist is conscious enough to follow the call of his soul’s intuition, like a seeker following the trails of Sarama, the haunt of intuition of the Vedic rishis, he is setting upon an inner journey of self-discovery and in this journey he give births to the revealing forms of his self-expression. Such a journey not only has a beginning, but also a luxurious growth of many sided explorations in the middle and a successful resolution of all the complexities arriving at a restful destination, which can be the starting point for the next cycle.
The latest art exhibition by the Japanese artist Jyoti Naoki Eri of a series named Anima, is a good example of such a journey of self-creation and self-discovery. He is a practitioner on the path of integral yoga and his art is an excellent documentation of his own spiritual evolution as an integral artist. It is an offering to the eternal, an act of consecration, an act of surrender following the trails of his soul’s aspiration, in spite of all the distractions and responsibilities of a busy social and family life.
The vessel — Beginning of the Anima
There are unique moments in life that pass like a dream.
One must Catch them on the wing, for they never return.
There are soul moments when the window of the eternal opens and if you are conscious you can catch them on the wing. Anima begins with the meeting of the artistic genius of Japan and the spiritual genius of India.
It began in Varanasi when the artist found his seed of inspiration in the traditional water offering in the morning ritual on the banks of Ganga. There are millions who go to Varanasi and must have seen or done this ritual offering of water in a copper vessel called Kalash or Lota. But for Jyoti it was a moment of inspiration; there was something in this simple ritual and he began his concentration, tapas, upon this simple object — the vessel. This is the first requisite on the path of integral yoga, the ability to concentrate unwaveringly upon a single object of concentration when it shows up on your way. Such a yogic concentration brings with it three results. First is the knowledge about the object of concentration that arise from within, the second is this knowledge becoming experiences of life and the third and the most profound stage is when you become the object of concentration, when the subject and the object merge to become one. You come out of it with a richness of inner experience and transformed and delighted by the process itself. Jyoti’s concentration lasted four years and the series Anima is a faithful documentation of this yogic process. It is at once the art and science of yoga. These are yogic research methods where the artworks are documentations of the process of self-discovery and self-creation of a seeker who is becoming a seer. To be a seer is to see beyond the outer veils of form into the very soul essence of existence teaming with spirit’s dynamic flowering.
The Journey of Exploration
There are three stages in the explorations of Jyoti — the Vessel, the Windows and the Lotus. Each one is a symbol in itself, unfolding in time, overlaying each other and revealing the journey and the destination. First is the artful capturing of the motif, the vessel in its utter simplicity, on a handmade paper with natural colours. Here the artist discards all the material aspects of the vessel and brings out its essential silhouette in a minimalist form.
Then he finds in it a riot of colours of life in many ways, but always with measure and balance in the perfect symmetry and stability of the vessel. It is always upright, never tilted. It takes tremendous self-discipline to stay with the object of concentration, retain its unchanging boundaries and still explore a living process in relationship with it.
This perhaps can be attributed to the spirit of Japan and its calm steady poise and capacity for deep contemplation. There is perfect balance and stillness in spite of the chaos inside and outside the vessel.
There are also moments of perfect calm or a beam of awakening ray striking through the vessel.
Then the artist finds the form of the human body itself, in the form of an apparel designer’s mannequin, as the vessel. We can look at human life and the life experiences themselves as the water offered through the vessel to the dawn of awakening. We can see the artist shifting between the foreground and the background, the inner and outer life, the form and spirit.
The human body is an instrument in the hands of the divine designer. Interestingly the Vedic seers looked upon the human body as an earthen jar to be baked in the fire so that it is capable of receiving and holding soma rasa, the heavenly delight of life. Jyoti lives in Auroville, the City of Dawn, where everyday life of a true Aurovilian is an offering to the dawn, Usha, like that of the Vedic seekers. Integral yoga demands a full immersion in life, not a withdrawal and it is through the totality of life experience a sadhak proceeds on the path. Jyoti’s life reflects this integrality of approach; while painting his works of art, he was also working at the Matrimandir as one of the executives and at the same time living a full and rich family life with his French wife and their newborn son. Here, the human body as the vessel become profoundly meaningful and reveals a deeper significance of the morning ritual on the banks of the river Ganga in Varanasi. If a human body is the vessel, all our daily works that we pour into the world are our offerings to the eternal. Work and life are an offering and an act of worship.
Life unfolds in unpredictable ways and there are always chaos to deal with and if you are a seeker you must know how to contain this chaos within oneself without spilling it or throwing it off at others. Here comes the second stage in Jyoti’s exploration called the Windows.
Here there is a perfect square grid, like a Vedic sieve, within which the chaos is contained with its multitude and its essence is getting filtered out.
Each square is a whole in itself with a golden divine centre. A perfect symmetry and order containing in it a total chaos. An individual and collective life that unfolds in multiplicity and at the same time each one becoming a unique individual. There is individualisation within the multiplicity of life, regardless of the apparent chaos of life in Auroville.
Then the artist combines both the Vessel and the Windows to create a richly colourful and larger series in primaries with a greater joy and fullness of self-mastery.
Here the chaos within the grid is well harmonised and the Vessel and the Windows become both foreground and background for each other. There is a seamless gestalt shift in perception where inside and outside, foreground and background, material and spiritual all gets seamlessly unified and integrated in perfect harmony.
The third stage is the lotus series when the artist arrived at a wide expansiveness and the lotuses bloom with heavenly colours of gold and white.
Here the artist found his completion and closure of the present creative cycle of exploration with the last painting in simple black and white where he depicts the lotus blooming in the vessel. An excellent image of spiritual evolution in the human vessel through the daily offerings of life and its work.
What a beautiful journey.
The artworks of Jyoti show, in its totality in the context of the artist’s life, a remarkable gift of concentration, a calm and steady aspiration bringing forth the artists spiritual evolution. Here the art works are practically a series of records of his inner transformation. That is why it is not sufficient to see each piece in isolation, but as a whole series in sequence so that we can begin to get insights into the role of art in the process of yoga.
Manoj Pavitran, Auroville – 24th December 2019