Sunday, October 7, 2007

Jesus, Lord of the Dance

d. Dance (Canvas,1980, belonging to Dr. Bas Weilenga.)
Dance is, as we have seen, a very frequent image in Jyoti’s pictures, and it is difficult to decide which one of these to focus on. Jesus dances - on the water, as world-illumining teacher, on the cross, as seed bursting from the earth, in vigorous risen life; Mary dances as she sings the Magnificat; the Disciples dance as they move into the world; the whole of creation dances.

The dancer encircled by flames is an image deeply embedded in Indian cultural consciousness. Of all the striking imagery associated with Siva - the ‘Great God’ from the mountains - it is as vigorously dancing Nataraj (the King of Dance) that he is most vividly re-presented in Indian iconic memory.

The reference here is to the cremation grounds for the dead, where Siva was often to be found. Indeed, the whole universe - as well as evil powers and deluding ignorance - is burnt up by his dance. His potent vigour destroys as well as recreates new life. So it is that the most famous icon of the Dance-king shows him surrounded by a ring of fire.

This same image emerges spontaneously in a number of Jyoti’s paintings. One or two have a number of features closely akin to the Dance-king: the same body-posture; the fierce fieryness of both dance and environs; the small hand-drum; wildly flowing hair; wind-blown clothes linking up with surrounding world; beneath the dancer’s feet dark forces symbolised by a demon-like embryo.

The two pictures shown, however, seem more typical of Jyoti’s work. The woodcut is another in the Psalm-series, here depicting what can be the wildly stormy effects of divine power - here ‘the voice of the Lord’ as a powerful wind ‘breaking the cedars of Lebanon’, making them ‘skip like a calf’. Here, too, Jyoti quotes a verse from Ramprasad, one of India’s love-impassioned poets (in The Holy Waters, p 47):

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