10 February - 15 March 2024
Shine Shivan

Shine Shivan, Sawan; Shyam Sang Manshukh Dhansukh (Krishna With Sakha Dhan Sukh Mann Sukh); Bhado, 2023

STEVENSON is pleased to present Basant, the first solo exhibition on this continent by Shine Shivan.

Shivan (born 1981 Kerala; lives in Faridabad, India) has developed a distinct language of imagery sourced from Vedic myth and legend, rendering his works in a manner that allows them to reside in, and also move beyond, their cultural and mythological specificity.

For Basant, the artist transforms the Johannesburg gallery into a temple-like space, where floor-to-ceiling drawings in pastel and charcoal offer scenes of deities and their consorts – both human and animal – in moments of ecstatic being.

As expressions of ‘Basant’ (the Hindi word for the season of Spring), these images posit balance and vitality as cyclic essences, celebrating the bursting forth of joy that comes about through loving devotion to spiritual realities – and manifest in the world around us.

Drawing upon his studies of ancient scripture, chiefly the 700-verse Bhagavad Gita (the ‘Song by God’, the most famous chapter of the Mahabharata), and pilgrimages to Buddhist and pre-Buddhist sites in Spiti and Ladakh in North-Eastern India amongst other holy places, Shivan’s images offer moments of devotion and attention. As the former, they articulate revelations of the artist’s lived experience of essential truth, and as the latter they invite a contemplation of essence within forms that are unfamiliar to many Western audiences.

Running over seven metres across, the five-panel drawing Anand Swaroop (2023) covers a full wall of the gallery and is an epic of ‘the form of joyousness’. Elephants laid with garlands present themselves as guardians on each side of a doorway, facing towards the central figure of Krishna, the embodiment of love. Krishna dances while playing his cosmic flute – the divine melody that fills the human heart – surrounded by his consorts, Happiness and Bliss.

Conscious of questions around shared and shifting meaning within his images – the elephant as animal and deity, the black skin of Krishna, the history of slavery that binds the artist’s birth city of Kerala to the African continent – Shivan invites these threads in, and returns to joy: ‘I have so much shuffling, erupting; but I am required to be silent with love and to enrich love – this is the purpose of Art.’

The artist writes:

Basant means one who bestows wishes.
Sawan is monsoon and after Sawan is Bhado.
In the centre there you will see Krishna dancing with friends who gives solace to the heart. This is Mansukh and Dhansukh (the one who represents the spiritual and material wealth).
Like the lattice of sun, water, earth, scent, love, sound – everything together as a divine enhancement to our soul.
Everything flooding in balance. And in between you will see the couple holding each other, the artist considers this as Basant.
Basant is the time when flowers bloom and the invisible flowers bloom everywhere in flesh and rock too.
Basant Panchami is the time of the kites, snakes and the yellow colour of the earth sprouts on the green fields.
I was always enchanted by the idea of gardens where people give importance to every aspect of life - to enhance, understand and cherish.
Like the pavilions built to observe seasons.
In these moments we witness how impatiently our souls await the love of the divine.
When I see the sun truthfully I feel as though I am drunk. This is not the right word! My heart starts to travel above like I am obsessed.
In the same way I pray when I see water. When air touches my body I feels I am loved. Fire, flower, flowing water – everything touches me immensely and I see all of this in people, seeing them whirling in love.
I dream of this life, fulfilled, travelling through this light. Divine because I see no space in between.
Bhagavad Gita says don’t express your love, be silent, love without attachment.
Omnipresent joy surmounting everything of this world, other worlds and meticulously unimaginable spaces of the universe.
I am in love with this world.

Shivan previously exhibited in Cape Town alongside Jane Alexander as part of Juxtapositions in 2022.

The exhibition will open on Saturday 10 February, 10am to 1pm. The artist will give a walkabout at 11am on the opening day.