All things on this material plane are characterized within two modalities – Repetition and Difference. Everything ranging from our cognitive abilities to our very identities, hinge on these two modes of existence. They both exist in concurrence, in harmony with one another, and ultimately, complimenting one another in the production of everything new. We are already the product, and by extension, a repetition of all that which is around us, or has existed before us. We are a repetition, but with difference, and individuality.
Uniqueness and similarity are often looked upon as contradictory ideas, from the utilitarian logic of the market, to discourses that alienate us from our individuality. The answer, however, lies exactly where it all begins. All of western philosophy is a footnote to Plato, and there we must begin searching for answers. Everything has an essence, a true form, which is transcendent. It dictates the nature of its many iterations. The duality of transcendence and individuality forms the bedrock of my sculptures Ekathva and Lavanya. This idea of duality, and subsequently unity is more succinctly represented by the idea of Atman and Brahman in Indian philosophy, from where I have drawn inspiration for these sculptures.
Atman represents the individual, living their own life, with their uniqueness, otherwise embodied by the idea of a soul. This very individuality, however, is also a part of the Brahman, or the Transcendental Soul. It is thus, that individuality and unity, are not so much opposites, as they are complementary. Without the individual, there can be no unity. There can be no shared human experience, without the individuality of the humans. But individuality isn’t handed to us on a platter. It is something we build, through constant exposure and deliberation of all that which is around us. Individuality is, consequently, built through a conscious acknowledgement and acceptance of everything around us and our place in the world we inhabit.
Ekathva, the first of the two elephants, forged with a mesh of the symbol Aum, represents Unity. It represents our place in the world. Much like the symbols that join together to form the whole elephant, each and every one of us are important links in the overarching structure of humanity. Lavanya, the second elephant, represents the grace we need in order to accept ourselves and the world for what it is, and to recognize the promise that lies in the infinite possibilities presented to us.
It is only when we come to terms with our place in the world, when we reconcile our individuality with the universality of human experience, that we can bring meaningful change within ourselves, and in the world. We must contemplate the impact of our actions on all things in nature if we are to truly recognize, and perchance, accomplish our purpose in life.
Sonal Ambani’s Solo Sculpture Show “Transcendental Time” can be experienced at the Kolkata Centre for Creativity in Kolkata, India.
Photographs by Amar Ambani.