Shakti Maira

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Shakti Maira is an artist-philosopher, who has written extensively on art, aesthetics, education, culture and travel for newspapers and magazines around the world, including Resurgence, and has been a columnist for First City and Design Today magazines in India. His article, ‘Beauty: A Master Key’, was published in Resurgence (March/April 2009).

In 2006 his book, Towards Ananda: Rethinking Indian Art and Aesthetics, was published by Penguin/Viking in India. It has developed a passionate following for pulling art out of its modern confusions and reconnecting it with everyday life and living. Unlike most books on Indian art and aesthetics which emphasize the ‘glorious past’ of the classical traditions, Towards Ananda is centred on the present and the future—on contemporary art and its place in the emerging global art world. It explores ancient theories of aesthetics in the light of contemporary challenges, and journeys across the country to distil the complex forces that have shaped Indian aesthetics.

Though the primary focus is India, the issues discussed, of purpose and practice, content and context, market forces and institutions, extend to all societies that are becoming homogenized by globalization. It widens the scope of art and aesthetics, and explores the application of the aesthetic values of balance, rhythm, harmony and proportionality in economics, development strategies, health, education, city planning, architecture, and product design.

Shakti has been engaged in children’s education and development through art, and has conducted numerous workshops in schools in the US and India. In 2005 he helped organize the ‘Learning through the Arts in Asia’ symposium in New Delhi, and was subsequently invited by UNESCO to formulate the Asian Vision of Arts in Education: Learning through the Arts. In 2006 he was appointed as a consultant by The India Foundation of the Arts (IFA).

Shakti has recently finished writing a ‘semi-nonfictional semi-fiction’ novel, Maya and August: Intercepting Arcs, which is a satiric fable about the modern global predicament. Where the dominant system equates ever-increasing consumption with well-being, and wants us to believe that a wasteful, unsustainable economic system is progressive and developed, and even that the ultimate solution to pretty much everything is more shopping! Most of Maya and August was written before the great economic meltdown struck, and in that sense it was prescient about the lack of balance and proportion in the present system. That the meltdown has happened makes the book more exciting because it offers ideas for a life that are based on understanding the wisdom of relational values, art, beauty and aesthetics.

Shakti has had 24 one-person shows around the world. His work is in the collection of the National Gallery of Modern Art in India, and in many private collections in India, Europe and USA.

In the last eight years, since his return to India after living in the US for more than two decades, Shakti has created and exhibited two series of paintings – the Beej series (2003) and the Pilgrims’ Path series (2001). While the former explores the magic of potentiality inherent in each one of us and celebrates the energy of growth and regeneration, the latter is a meditation on the very nature of the spiritual path. Shakti recently completed a set of twelve bronze sculptures that are his first castings in India, and are part of a new sculptural series, The Seekers (2006-7). Through them, Shakti has attempted to express “the inner experiential textures of the spiritual journey”, and each figure represents a moment of introspection and insight on the path.

Over the last two years, Shakti has been invited to give public talks and lectures in India and the UK on "Buddhist Aesthetics" and "Spirituality in Contemporary art". Most recently, Shakti has written and spoken on Beauty on various occasions, such as the Resurgence Summer Camp in Wales in 2008, the keynote lecture at "Mystics and Scientists", the annual Scientific and Medical Network Conference, in Winchester in 2009, as well as at public talks in London and Glasgow. He is currently instigating conversations and dialogues in different forums that explore a new, integral and multidisciplinary understanding of beauty.

Shakti trained as an economist and business manager from prestigious colleges in India. From 1968 to 1990 he balanced careers as a professional artist with managerial and consulting assignments with multinational banks and corporations around the world, including a stint at the World Bank. Since 1990, he has devoted his time fully to art, writing and educational activities. He lives in Delhi and his work can be seen at www.shaktimaira.com

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