By Uma Nair
Once in a blue moon you come across a book that is a witness to the colours of a beautiful new art bloom. The modernist monochromatic cover of Olivia Fraser’s The Journey Within emerges as a striking visual component to a pathbreaking personal journey that delves into inner depths and vistas in the translation of yogic energies and practice to evolve a suite of works that distill the essence of sacred texts and ancient spiritual pathways.
Connecting through centuries
Fraser’s journey from traditional Pichwais and other miniature techniques come full circle as she zooms in on the petalled perfection of the lotus within and the cosmos that connects through centuries. We see her doing that across rustic mediums and classical mandala dimensions with a refreshing regard for art historical conventions. Her works operate between two and three dimensions, they don’t always have a back and a front, or an inside and outside. Content and context both spill over the edges of these chapters -while historian B.N Goswamy’s introduction is a tad disappointing, it is the other writers who reveal their insights and intuitive reckonings. Perhaps best in terms of verve and vitality is Fraser’s own reflection that brims over tide and time to unravel her odyssey. She uses a squirrel hair brush, as she binds arabic gum and ground pigments to create surfaces that speak of sacred perfection and shaded dominions.
At Nature Morte the walls speak in an elegiac echo- the tranquil spaces speak of terrains that we must tread upon in the islands of eternity. They take over a gallery space with a commanding, resonant yet regal invincibility. Primal yet eloquent, exquisitely constructed, they suggest precision in numbers while invoking the depth of inner sojourns of spirituality. We are in a sublimnal space, as if these petals, bees and geometric annunciations are in conversation with one another (and with us). They claim space, but they also invite others into it. When Olivia leafs through the pages of the book you understand her journey from the realistic outward to the emotive inner.
The pages unveil how the colours soften and turn into minimalist monochromes. You can’t just look at these images, you have to read it in terms of the residue of experience and research. For Fraser, who has a deep knowledge of sacred spiritual Indian texts, reading heightens her self-awareness of the role of prana, of breath as she directs her images into a network of temporal and spatial metaphors that moor through traditions that are sieved and sifted through time.
Here, she allows a concentrated and deeply observant content to infiltrate and celebrate age old traditions and creates a Modernist monochrome— that traditionally looked measured in multiple meanderings. When she creates the epic triptych Bhrahmeri, it’s as if tiny bits of colour seep up through fissures and sutures, for instance, while the spirals of the bees and the lotus petals create a galaxy of a pristine surface that transports us into outer realms.
The design dynamics in the book are a summation of auratic and singular systems, precise permutations within sequences, and rational, serial images arranged with an indexical present, both incrementally and logically. You evince an advanced and holistic pattern of a consciously evolving art, intricately balanced, and knowingly categorised with the proposition that there also exists a plane that can only be understood through intuitive logic.
A Journey Within is about the vitality of earth songs that bloom through an introspective journey into numerous small stories so much like the 1000 lotus petals, Fraser mentions adding value and understanding to her art that celebrates the cosmos within and without. While the book injects playful inquiry directly into an organic culture, one wished the essays were more in depth.