ABOUT THE ARTIST
“Sheefali Asija captures the sublimity of colossal pieces of technology—the Large Hadron Collider, Saturn V rockets, Tokamak nuclear fusion reactors—as a celebration of humanity’s collective achievements. Much like the sacred architecture of the past, these scientific feats have the power to inspire collective optimism and wonder. Sheefali draws on the aesthetics of machinery and translates their intricate designs to large-scale paintings that, upon first glance, recall the radial symmetry of Gothic rose windows or Buddhist mandalas. In the age of devastating climate change and post-truth politics, Sheefali urges us towards scientific education and global cooperation.” – Bethany Fincher, Curator Saatchi Art
Exploring the concept of ‘conditional optimism’ my work confronts dominant narratives of pessimism and celebrates human progress.
My works are a conscious effort to articulate a new secular iconography. As in religious iconography my titles are intended to do a lot of ‘heavy lifting’ where I deliberately combine layers of (often subversive) meaning with a deliberate playfulness. The titles I use form a vital dimension of that intentional iconography and have a deliberate mythological ‘resonance’ given that I frequently chose to appropriate the names of characters and places from mythology and the history of religion.
In a similar manner to the creation of Mandalas in the Eastern Religions my paintings are a form of meditation – a calligraphy of dancing lines of colour. I find myself disappearing in my sculpted scapes of colour and lines where all that exists for me in that moment is the place/point where my paint dripped brush meets the waiting canvas.
In my recent work I have drawn on the Apollo space program of the 1960s and 1970s for inspiration both from a visual and philosophical perspective. Neil Armstrong’s words spoken 20th July 1969 at 3.17 pm CST‘Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed’ sent a cheer that reverberated around the world and ‘For one priceless moment in the whole history of man all the people on this Earth [were] truly one’. We had left the planet that gave birth to us and travelled to another world. In my mind this was humanity’s greatest secular ‘religious’ moment and represented our greatest achievement as a species.
It is that cheer – that sense of shared destiny and shared accomplishment achieved through cooperation, planning, understanding, sacrifice and ingenuity that I explore with my art.
The Saturn V rocket that launched Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins in their Apollo XI spacecraft to the moon and brought them safely back to Earth was not only the most powerful machine built to date it is also profoundly beautiful to apprehend with its immense scale and the rhythms and patterns contained within its overall design and individual components.
And when taken in totality I find that in the colossal vehicle echoes of both the form but also the intention of medieval cathedrals of the past. However, whereas the effect that cathedrals achieved through the edifices of stone and light to create places of awe and wonder, Saturn V achieves that and so much more by its sheer existence, its ambitions and the history of what we accomplished with it.
These hugely ambitious endeavours may well lead to answers to questions that have troubled philosophers and religious thinkers for thousands of years – who are we, where do we come from, what is our purpose – is there a purpose.
Our ancestors were pattern-seeking hunter-gatherers way before they were farmers whose ability to seek and find patterns in the world allowed them to live long enough to procreate and pass on what has been humanity’s unique characteristic – our curiosity.