Tara Mahapatra in her Studio..



,Artist Portrait Tara Mahapatra - Images of a Reality in Motion (excerpt)

..Text by Lena Naumann

...Mundus Art Magazine/Issue I 2016

Tara Mahapatra Artist

From Anthropology to Art

(...) Tara Mahapatra was born in 1970 in Berlin. After studying anthropology in Paris and film at the Freie Universität Berlin, she went on to study liberal arts at the Universität der Künste Berlin in 1994. She completed her studies with a diploma as a master student of Professor Katharina Sieverding, a student of Joseph Beuys. She was particularly impressed with the open class concept employed by her teacher. Anyone who is interested may attend the classes taught by Katharina Sieverding and show their works – just as it was practiced by Beuys. This non-hierarchical openness has made a lasting impression on Tara Mahapatra and, among other things, inspired her to examine the writings of Baruch de Spinoza and of the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze, rooted in the tradition of the former.

For Deleuze, the All-One is the source of all possible conditions, an infinite sea of virtualities, which can also be described as a potentiality. Whenever something is realized, takes shape, becomes concrete, this is a nexus of virtualities or potentialities, i.e. places, where something merges and coagulates into matter. This does not always happen in a perfect, ideal way – but maybe perfection is not the goal, anyway. Maybe the how is more important than the what and the process is more important than an “outcome” that is as perfect as possible. What occurs when something happens and what does that look like? What experiences are afforded me as an experientially resonating observer?

Ultimately, these are the questions that challenge Tara Mahapatra in her role as an artist and that she addresses in her drawings and films, again and again and from ever-changing perspectives. She further brings the intersection of Zen, quantum physics, and philosophy into the picture, and is particularly interested in those procedural aspects that cannot be described with words. The goal is always to render the invisible visible.

Her drawings are simultaneously symbols and realizations of the permanent flow of a universal energy field that manifests itself in the here and now as that which we commonly refer to as reality. From this continuous process, Tara Mahapatra selects a moment, immerses herself – in the tradition of Japanese calligraphy, of Adolf Hölzel and his students – in her own momentary experience of reality and puts it down on paper using ink and a bamboo quill pen. Strictly speaking, one cannot describe these paintings; they evade being made tangible through words. Are they atmospheric pictures – visualizations of intrapsychic, biochemical, and thus, ultimately, electromagnetic processes? Language works according to the subject-object scheme. Too easily it commits violence against process-based occurrences and attempts to nail down something that is fluid.

This awareness and this sensibility are necessary to be able to approach the “indescribable” drawings of Tara Mahapatra: by tracing the oscillations in which they have their origin. Many of Mahapatra’s works have physical titles. They are titled "Immanent Oscillation", "Magnetic Layers", "Electromagnetic Storm", "Quantum Entanglement", "Rotating Hyperbolas", "Rotating Spheres", or "Electromagnetic Dreams". They testify to the intense engagement of the artist with physical phenomena.

The extent to which this artistic engagement captures the spirit of the time is demonstrated by more than ten exhibitions since 2012 in which Tara Mahapatra showed her works, most recently at the Regard Benin Biennial in Porto Novo, the Bellegarde Cultural Center Toulouse, Kyoto City University of Arts Art Gallery, and the Museum Kurhaus Kleve. The latter dedicated a major solo exhibition to her, titled In The Dark Of Light, which ran from October 2014 to January 2015. The Kunststiftung Nordrhein-Westfalen invited Tara Mahapatra to show her works at the Klever Kulturhaus as part of the 25/25/25 project. Thirty of her drawings, as well as a copy of the limited edition of her film In The Dark Of Light, were gifted to the collection of the Museum Kurhaus Kleve by the Kunststiftung NRW. The jury of the 25/25/25 project included, among others, Adam Szymcyk, artistic director of the documenta 14, Dominikus Müller of frieze, and Antje Stahl of monopol.

The works of Tara Mahapatra that were exhibited at the Kurhaus Kleve were inspired by Beuys’ Projekt Westmensch sketchbooks, in which Beuys formulated many of his fundamental concepts and ideas between 1958 and 1964. The subject of metamorphosis and transformation appears time and again as a leitmotif in these sketchbooks and refers primarily to Goethe’s botanical studies with regard to the metamorphosis of plants. Taking Beuys and Goethe as a starting point, the artist further examined the issue, delving into the metamorphosis of the spirit and its flow in time and space.

In the works of Tara Mahapatra, a skill – a talent for drawing – has become spiritual. This drawing process occurs as a self-acting drawing of a line, which, as it takes shape in reality, can only take the course it takes. Is it the artist who draws the line or does the line draw the artist? No matter: painter, bamboo quill pen, ink, paper, and the occurring process are one – and suddenly everything becomes clear, unambiguous, and simple in an astounding manner. Beauty and order of the universe, the infinite fullness of time: here, they turn into an event. One responsibility of art is to familiarize the observer with reality and to expand their view of the wealth of human possibilities. What story do the images created by Tara Mahapatra tell us? Perhaps this one: man is not a fixed being, but a process that is continuously evolving. Everything is possible.

Translation: Claudia Jones