Exhibitions

Aksharayoga – Sacred Calligraphy by Jayant Silva [JAN 2018 – JAN 2019]

I am pleased to present at MOSA an exhibit of Jayant Silva, a talented artist from Mumbai, India. Jayant’s work exemplifies the possibility to combine aspects of his background in computer science and academia with art and aesthetics.

Although Indian art traditionally features figurative portrayals of deities and represents the Divine in many wonderful forms (as can be appreciated in “Divine Portraiture,” another MOSA exhibition), Jayant Silva expresses himself through calligraphy, a more rare art form within Vaishnavism. He has made it his mission to use a rare Sanskrit script called Siddham and use calligraphy as a means to express devotion to the Lord in amazing ways. Vaishnava tradition has many wonderful scriptures and writings by different acharyas, or spiritual teachers, and to bring them to life with sacred calligraphy, a classical art form, and in various creative ways, is a new contribution to the expression of bhakti.

While Islam has a well-established, well-developed calligraphic tradition not least because of the prohibition against representing images of the Divine or indeed any living being, whereas the Vedic tradition has no difficulty in representing the many forms of God and different devas in a multitude of styles, traditions, and media. Calligraphy, however, has not been used very much in Hindu art. Yet the richness of the scripts used to write in Sanskrit and other Indian languages as well as the variety and depth of Vedic and Vaishnava scriptures are a perfect source of inspiration for calligraphy. In other words, the diversity and depth of India’s sacred traditions allows for diversified artistic expression: traditional art forms, contemporary art, figurative, abstract, and even calligraphy.

In calligraphy, the meaning of the texts, verses, and syllables becomes as important as the beauty of their artistic manifestation. To understand them and ponder and meditate on their meanings will surely enlighten us and inspire us in our spiritual practices and devotion to the Divine. May all visitors to MOSA exhibitions become inspired to make spiritual progress in the tradition in which they feel most comfortable.

Martin Gurvich

Director Museum of Sacred Art – MOSA

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Jayant Silva is an artist and computer scientist by education. He explores sacred themes in Indian scriptures through calligraphy. He primarily works with ink, watercolour and gouache on paper in a number of languages such as Sanskrit, Bengali, Tamil and Marathi. Besides these traditional media, he also explores the making of letter forms using embroidery, engraving, embossing, cutting and folding on a number of surfaces such as wood, metal, cloth, leaves, paper mache etc. In these works the emphasis is on the letter forms which are developed with sensitivity to the medium in which he is working. To achieve this he uses a number of scripts such as Siddham, Modi, Bengali, Ranjana, Devanagari and Tamil. Another unique aspect of his work is the use of algorithmic patterns generated by a computer. One of the biggest influences on his writing has been the works of the famous Indian calligrapher, R. K. Joshi, and the book “Siddham” by Robert Van Gulik which contains many beautiful examples of the Siddham script written by Japanese monks. Inspired by their beautiful handwritten letters, he has taught himself calligraphy and developed the system of writing the Siddham alphabets. He teaches University courses on the Siddham script. His work is also influenced by western artists like John Stevens, and Werner Schneider as well as eastern calligraphers such as Hassan Massoudy and Eduard Dimasov.

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