Embracing all in the rhythm of the lyrical line

Have you ever heard the rippling sound of waters, humming winds and thundering clouds? Have you watched the hands of a tabla man and the moving feet of a Bharat Natyam dancer? Have you ever felt the urge of pure love, the satisfaction of sharing and giving? That same rhythm, rich classical music, selfless love or a moonlit night, I wish I could absorb and not miss a single detail then pour it all on my canvas.

I think I need years still to paint what I experience through nature, music, rhythm, meditation, human relationships to present pure love, joy and faith in my canvases. As spirituality is central to my nature, the eternal relationship of God and human being, my mission is to spread the joy and blessings that I have received through this relationship. I feel that I am blessed because I was born with the urge to create and the love of God. My joy of living has been doubled by these blessings, my energy abounds and my quest to create and discover never ends.

I have watched for hours the constant effort of waves to reach the banks and engulf them. But somehow they give away. They break off, leaving their prints; they rush back to return with higher motivation, full of energy and force again and again. I feel there is something inside me like these waves, strong, powerful, and energetic yet unknown to me. But it wants to come out, break through me to reach far beyond me, reaching up and farther to unknown heights. Perhaps with a will to shatter the skies! I feel the storm within me all the time and I give it a chance to come out on my canvases. With full energy it spreads on the canvas, leaves impressions of its thundering momentary existence and rushes back to return again and again.

I was born in Ajmer, a small desert town in Rajasthan, northwest India. It is a great pilgrimage site for Hindus and Muslims. Hindus travel from all over India to take a dip in The Sacred Pushker Lake, and Muslims travel from all over the world to visit the tomb of Khawaja Moinuddin Chisti, a Sufi saint. My mother, a very spiritual person, believed in one God, who is the source of all life on this earth and beyond. Even though she was a practicing Hindu, she often said that we are the children of the same God and there is no difference between Hindus, Muslims, Christians or Jews. I am grateful to her for planting those thoughts in my young mind as today I am married to a Muslim and I have crossed the boundaries of religions.

My work, paintings, sculpture or poems, speak of human universality. It is the flow of humanity with its universal inspirations, faith, pain and joy. It is moving, lyrical, melodious, and harmonious. There is one original design, one blueprint. By acknowledging outer differences amongst people, the deeper realization is that we are the same in essence, that we are all seeking harmony.

I am deeply influenced by the human form and the human spirit. The world is made up of human beings. We are what we are because of these human beings. We exist for our relationships that we have among each other. God created us to live together and share the blessings of this world.

I have been painting for thirty some years. I have traveled extensively, from India to Iran to Kuwait to the UK, Germany and to the US. Last year, I moved from Pennsylvania to California. I have lived for long periods with amazing people and in fascinating communities. Folk art, miniature art and Arabic calligraphy are three strong influences on my art, adopted along my journeys. All textures and all colors are assimilated on my surfaces. Especially the colors and traditions of Rajasthan, India, the region of my birth, have created the inspirational foundations of my work, which I express through layers of colors with intricate textures that sometimes reveal or hide the continuous line.

I am creating a body of work of through a continuous, lyrical line to express joy in the universal spirit that unites humanity. This lyrical line has been my guide over the blank surface of the canvas. With years of practice, it has become freer and more energetic. It has allowed me to create calligraphic designs or a flow of humanity with same facility. I want to spread God’s love by bringing all people together with this single line of positive energy. I have created several pieces that show unity and celebration together. In my art, people are not given any identity and thus represent the entirety of humanity without differences. I recreate these visions which show people in celebrations, visiting neighbors, family reunions, celebration of life, glow of unity and hope of the new earth.

As Pana Columbus, my writer friend, once wrote for my catalog In her work, the bodies are blended together. It isn’t clear where one begins and one ends. Often all the figures are drawn with the same line. They are deliberately created as a whole, as a group, as an ensemble. The world Salma Arastu is helping us create is one in which the magic of communion plays a central role. Her subjects include people who, whatever they do, they do together. They initiate each other, they celebrate together, they grieve together, they pray together.

I have always been obsessed with the process of painting. It is life giving and flowing. It is ongoing. I find such pleasure preparing the ground, going over all the space with movement of the lyrical line, applying thin acrylic glazes, again adding line and textures and sand papering, or adding molding paste, adding several thin acrylic layers, transparent and fluid, and finally adding fine details with pen and ink , as if embroidering on the fabric. One has to discover many stages before reaching that ultimate peace. It is a state of meditation.

Oh! it is the pleasure of higher levels, undefined and sacred…And the result, the image that appears is like a blessing! Overjoyed I return to begin the next piece. Apart from painting, I have started sculpting. I cut my figures in metal using a new laser-cut technology. And most recently, I am discovering new vistas through digital media.

In a world where differences, racism, poverty and loneliness of existence overshadow the gifts of Nature and power of love and faith, I want my canvas to serve as a contribution to world harmony. My faith inspires me to continue celebrating diversity through my work in painting, poetry and sculpture. Though I was born without fingers on my left hand, my faith in God has assured me that I was born for a special reason to spread that love of God which I have received since my childhood. I want my viewer to gain strength from my painting and dance to the joy and rhythm of the soul.