Katherine Virgils: The Infinite Lightness of Being

5 - 29 October 2016
Conway Street, London

‘Six years ago, I stumbled upon a semi-derelict early nineteenth-century temple in Jodhpur known as the Mahamandir, built by the Maharaja Man Singh (1803 - 43) for his Nath guru. I was amazed to find every inch of the sanctum covered with beautifully detailed miniature paintings, illustrating sublime figures of meditating yogis. Astonishingly, for almost 200 years this temple has stood neglected, its mysterious treasures unknown to the wider world.

 

Naths were a sect of wandering yogis that claim to have invented Hatha yoga almost 1000 years ago. Under Man Singh’s devout patronage, a new style of painting developed, which celebrated their supernatural philosophy. Conventional representation was set aside and new visual techniques prioritized to express the Naths’ complex metaphysical ideas. Some scholars have argued that these murals are the earliest examples of abstract art.’ – Katherine Virgils

 

Her first solo exhibition in London, The Infinite Lightness of Being follows Virgils’ residency in Jodhpur’s Mehrangarh Fort, where she was invited to show her works by the city’s Maharaja HH Gaj Singh.

 

Re-imagining the yogis, Virgils uses ancient methods and new technology alike. Indian miniature painting methods and gold leaf are blended with earth pigments, whilst the scale of each yogi is radically altered, the imagery becoming more resonant with a 21st century audience.

 

As HH Gaj Singh stated in the foreword to Virgils' Jodhpur exhibition, ‘Indian philosophy believes when it is destined to happen, it will happen. I have strong feelings that the Mahamandirs’ time has come.’