10th of January 2018
Before the advent of faster means of transport, ships played a major role in discovering new lands and cultures. New ideas, resources and religions arrived in Goa via sea as did trade and war. At the same time, across time visual and literary works have depicted the boat to symbolise one’s journey through life and also the many internal journeys.
Artists Sonny Singh and Ekaterina Sisfontes have combined these various meanings attached to boats in their new exhibition Bon Voyage which consists of twenty lifeboats.
“Sea voyages have changed world history. War, trade and tourism all arrived by sea. Battalions, barges and cruise liners have altered global and Goan culture. But boats also represent the journey a single life. Bon Voyage recreates marine vessels that embody crucial nodes of individual and communal life from ships of war and happiness to boats of fortune and destiny,” says Sonny Singh.
Russian-born, Sisfontes, traveled extensively by sea and there studied the philosophical nature of marine voyages. Over a three month residency at Cube Gallery, the artist recreates this introspective expedition as a series of boats that represent the deep solitude of mortal life.
Sisfontes catalogues these internal sojourns in Mind Ship. This container vessel, houses a triumvirate of mounds that represent a cosmic diagram of belief systems and decision maps. The mind, influenced by destined forces, deliberates and executes free will, thus, dictating both the function and purpose of individual life.
She considers the infinite continuum of life in Eternity Boat.The solitude of a marine vessel or a human life against the vastness of the ocean or time, probe existential questions about the finitude of life. Eternity is both a metaphysical and imaginative voyage. The anchored ship represents a life bound to time. In reverse, the same ship seems to transcend time altogether, sailing beyond its mortal confines. The artist, thus, interprets eternity as a blurred line between the inevitable end and the possibility of everlasting life.
Between these primary ports of the mind and eternity, Sisfontes charts the dynamic intersection of free-will, Boat of Hope, existential gambles, Fortune Ship and pre-determined stations, Destiny Ship. In the Destiny Ship, she seeks to show how the boat sails at the mercy of the sea, just as human will is limited by unchangeable circumstances
Concurrently, Singh’s compositions sail in the space between individual and objective experience. The artist binds self-journeys to the overarching life-voyage through ten playfully profound installations. This includes the whimsical construct of innocence, Toy Ship. Here the artist replicates, in sequentially diminishing sizes, a reliquary of innocence to symbolize the prevalence of childhood sojourns throughout life. The wonder of youthful adventure is immune to time. The question, however, remains: do toy ships and imagined wonders shrink with the rigid burdens of age or do they grow resilient against the regrets and restraints of advancing adulthood?
The balance of aesthetic ying-yang has also been interpreted as the Beauty Boats. This yin-yang dynamic pendulums between vanity and self-love, distortion and idiosyncrasy. The white boat represents the “yin”, a positive and bright state of beauty that is pure and platonic. The black boat or “yang”, conversely, challenges this ideal state with a blemished and unchartered wave of compelling, albeit dystopian, allure.
There is also the War Ship, a hefty, multi deck battalion with pointed missilery, which appears externally threatening but like most pivotal human interactions is multifaceted. It is fortified to defend as well as destroy. The artist envisions the duality of conflict through the lens of both ambitious conquest and reflexive self-defense.
In the Happiness Boat, the artists seeks to demonstrate how the horizon of true bliss is a magnetic beacon that stirs idealism and adventure.
Apart from this Sonny has also created The Three Barges. During the age of exploration in the 16th century , the conquistadors committed their daring voyage to a quest for God – spreading their own religious beliefs; Gold – amassing great wealth; and Glory – earning fame, praise and distinction. In The Three Barges, Singh investigates the modern-day manifestations of this colonial mantra.
Both artists compose multi-editioned installations of subconscious musings, Submarine and childhood wonder, Paper Boats, to represent ever-present undercurrents that fuse the vessel with the voyage, the self with the other; joining solitary travels with journeys across time.
(‘Bon Voyage’ will open on January 11, 6 pm at Cube Gallery, Moira. The show will be on view till February 5.)