Vaishali Prazmari – Island
Islands, floating and otherwise, are a permanent fixture in Vaishali Prazmari’s oeuvre. They encompass the wondrous and the solitary, the dreamer and the monk. Vaishali’s islands are both populated with marvels to tell the world about and places of quiet retreat. This basic conflict is embodied in the paradox of isolation in Chinese Tang poetry where a wanderer at once yearns for solace and the reassuring presence of other people. There are myriad wonders to be found on her island landscapes: a giant Roc egg that Sinbad the Sailor found; Buddha mirages; colourful rocks, lonely mountains; unravelling flying carpets; half-drowned or sunken cinemas depicting Soviet science fiction; empty wild skies; glittering skyscrapers of twinkling cities in the Far East.
Rooted in painting, her work extends beyond paint and the painting's frame to create dialogues with other harmonious materials. Dangling roots are painstakingly woven from hand-dyed wool using Medieval tapestry techniques; the artist carefully chooses techniques and media in the way a master tea-blender takes time to select certain leaves with complementary characteristics to create new blends. She spends years learning the diverse skills needed to make her work. Evident in this show are her interests in scale both large and small, oil paintings, carpets, book arts and illumination, Islamic miniature paintings, Chinese painting, installation and levitation.
This cultural richness in her work has a historical tradition dating back to the Silk Road and it is epitomized in Islamic miniature paintings, which embody a fineness of line from China and vibrancy of colours and pigments from India and Central Asia to be synthesized into beautiful miniatures in the royal courts of Safavid Persia and the Mughal Empire, which in turn influenced and was influenced by the equal magnificence of Renaissance Europe. No art is made in isolation yet all artworks are islands that stand alone within their own archipelagoes. Vaishali sees herself as a part of a continuum in this tradition of incorporating elements in a contemporary way from various cultures by which she is inspired on her own travels.
The paradox of isolation is not new. Islands have always been sites of wonders, monasteries and prisons. Islands are important. They are safe havens in the vast open sea andwere part of the trajectory of travel as pilgrimage to travel asconquering. The early Christian Desert Fathers sought a life of solitude and contemplation. Their desert became the European forest, which eventually became the sea; exile on an island as white martyrdom. Irish monks thought of the ocean as a kind of liquid desert. The holy and the hellish moved offshore to islands, which became repositories for marvels and wonders. With Renaissance expansion into Asia, islands were imagined in the fabulous East - also the location of Paradise. Columbus found a continent, but actually, he was looking for islands. Islands formed part of the empires of access that European powers claimed as they forged their paths across oceans, spurring the Age of Discovery. There has always been a yearning for islands.Insular imagination was crucial to European expansion and acquisition of geographical knowledge. On a gigantic scale, whole planets can be envisaged as floating islands in space. Floating islands in particular were important in the trajectory from early science fiction which was projected onto flying islands and eventually into outer space. After being shifted into the furthest reaches of the earth, when the world became too small, islands started to fly.
Vaishali Prazmari studied both the traditional arts and contemporary fine art and she incorporates Persian, MughalIndian and Chinese elements into her work. Vaishali holds degrees from both the Slade School of Fine Art and the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts where she currently teaches courses and holds an MA in Medieval and Renaissance Studies (UCL) specializing in floating islands. She was born on an island, raised on an island, has moved across cities and lived on two continents, Asia and Europe. Her childhood in Hong Kong was a mixture of Blade Runner East and West, night and day, ancient and modern and growing up island-hopping formed an early blueprint metaphor for her life. She sees the image of the Floating Island as a kind of self-portrait, in common with all wanderers and dreamers, who take their roots with them wherever they fly. She has been an islomane all her life.
For more info and to see her published thesis on Floating Islands visit the artist’s website at www.vaishaliprazmari.com (view ‘Articles’) and www.athousandnightsandanight.co.uk for her current epic 1001 Nights project where she writes on things that feed her work.