In Sahana Ramakrishnan’s “An Ocean of Time,“ All Living Beings are Interconnected

By Isha Sharma
October 18, 2023

It’s impossible to put Sahana Ramakrishnan in a box–she contains multitudes. An avid practitioner of Muay Thai, the India-born, Singapore-raised, Brooklyn-based artist underwent knee surgery earlier this year and began this 14-piece collection as a way to heal her mind, body, and spirit. Ramakrishnan’s first solo show at Fridman Gallery takes us on a mystical, mythical journey through space, matter, and time. Stepping into the bright, airy exhibit, one is transported to a realm where the past, present, and future collide in “An Ocean of Time.”

At the center is The Closing (2023), an 80” by 30” diptych of a boundless tiger painted on a wooden panel using cascading layers of oil, graphite, and sumi ink, topped with seed beads, gold leaf, and rhinestones. Following is the scaled-down Self-Portrait (2023), a printer-paper-sized oil painting on canvas, reminiscent of portraits once seen in royal households with its foreground composition and rich jewel-toned colors.

Wandering further within the exhibition, The Earth of the Night (solar storm) (2023) captivates. In it, Ramakrishnan uses an ancient form of Japanese marbling called suminagashi, which directly translates to “ink floating” to portray a sense of upward fluidity. Meanwhile, Cry Baby in the Deep (2023) draws from Alice in Wonderland, and interprets the classic Lewis Carroll tale of a young girl who falls through a rabbit hole into a fantasy world of anthropomorphic creatures to convey a lack of belonging and sense of dysmorphia amidst the beingness of other non-humans.

Reverberating throughout the exhibition is the idea that the ocean remembers. It carries memories that have shaped humankind until those memories calcify, becoming smooth and shell-like under pressure. In her explorations of what it means to be alive through the ebbs and flows of life, Ramakrishnan conveys the interconnectedness of all living entities–from mammals to sea creatures and trees.

Snakes, spirals, and cords of rope sewn into canvas in works like Portrait of a Tree (2023) and Song of the Naga (2023) all represent movement, wholeness, and transition. Written mantras, embedded beneath hypnotizing kaleidoscopic motifs, inject dimension and juxtapose Buddhist chants with verses from William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience.

Rather than spelling out the obvious, Ramakrishnan affords the viewer the opportunity to dismantle underlying narratives and surrender in solitude to the feelings that unfurl. The exhibited artworks are an enchanting feast for the eyes–one that must be experienced in the flesh.

Isha Sharma is a first-generation Indian American writer based in Brooklyn, NY. She aims to highlight underrepresented voices in mainstream media. Follow her on Instagram: @isha__sharma

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