Past Exhibitions

When the Gods Reveal Themselves

When the Gods reveal Themselves
Shir Muller-Yamaguchi & Anat Turbowicz

One of the most dominant characteristics of Indian culture is the abundance of deities. Statues of the gods are to be found in every corner, from miniature dolls in tiny shrines at the heart of a noisy intersection, to gigantic statues carved out of the rock at unique sites throughout India. Some say that the gods number some 330 million, equal to the number of cells in the human brain.
The sculptures of the gods in the exhibition derive from an ancient tradition of representation. However, each of the three contemporary Indian artists has focused on a different aspect of the heart-to-eye axis: Rajul Mehta examines the power with which the traditional images of the gods are imbued in light of current modes of expression; Chanchal Banga merges the images of the deities with his own
personal imagery; and Neeraj Mahajan follows the prayers of the faithful with his camera.

Rajul Mehta, painter and print artist, lives in Israel, and endows the images of the gods with her own interpretation. Her works combine screen printing with abstract colour in the pop-art mode, reminiscent of that of Andy Warhol. The gods play a major role in the daily life of Indian believers. Contact with the deity allows them to fulfil their personal desires. Representations of the gods appearing in Rajul’s work resemble famous Bollywood film stars (the Indian version of Hollywood) in another of her series. The deities, like the actors, offer a different, dreamlike reality.
Her proficiency in the silkscreen medium allows Rajul to use “ready-made” images, and to move freely between the two-dimensional and volume by means of contrasting colour and adaptation of the image. In some works, she deploys gold and copper paint over industrial colour, creating a glowing effect that conveys a sense of the latent energy of the deity.
The Indian artist Chanchal Benga lives and works in Jerusalem, specializing in printing and engraving. In recent years he has been working in colour on large canvases covered with airy, delicately sketched images. In the series of paintings he has created for this exhibition, Chanchal explores his identity through a dialogue between traditional Indian images and local ones – the tent and the rose of Jericho. Transience and renewal are central motifs of his work. Transience is represented by the tent – the artist views himself as a wanderer through the world, making his home wherever he finds himself.
The Buddha symbolizes the possibility of change and renewal because for many Hindus he is one of the ten incarnations of Vishnu. The motif of the rose of Jericho also symbolizes the power of renewal. This plant preserves itself as a dry seedling, and remains dormant until the rains come, when it spontaneously bursts into flower.
The delicate, accurate images stand out prominently against a background of lightly shaded fields of colour that allow deep study, like the sea. The Buddha and the other images become abstract silhouettes, mere symbols of reality. Chenchal’s process of creating an artwork is the outcome of an intense mental process that finds visual expression on the canvas, but the essential meaning touches on the artist’s soul and on the transformations occurring in it.
Neeraj Mahajan lives in Delhi and makes photographic odysseys to the origins of Hindu belief. His photographs over the last seven years have been taken at festivals and sacred rites, and at sites of pilgrimage.
The largest of these – Kumbamela – attracts millions of believers from all over India to rituals of cleansing and purification in the waters of the Ganges, with religious ceremonies and the chanting of hymns.

Neeraj’s camera tracks the believers who pray to be washed clean of their sins in the sacred river. His clear vision registers the divine power reflected in their eyes. The photographs convey the deep-rooted belief known as ‘bhakti’ – man’s adherence to his personal gods.
The experience of encountering the godhead (darshan)¹ is described by Dr. Yohanan Grinshpon as “the moment of altered perception, in which man sees his existence from a new aspect”². For Niraj the photograph is not just a neutral documentation, but a spiritual event in which he participates.
¹ darshan, from the root ‘to see’, occurs when the Hindu believer arrives at a shrine and envisions the god embodied in the statue.

² Dr. Yohanan Grinshpon: “Hinduism”, p.80. Mapa. 2005 (Hebrew)