Shanthi Chandrasekar

Teaching Artist
North Potomac, Maryland
Kolam: Indian women often begin their day and sometimes also end it by drawing kolams on the ground just outside the front door. These repeating patterns, a type of Tantric Art, have been passed down from generation to generation for centuries, and symbolize the scientific and philosophical patterns innate to and infinite throughout the cosmos. Like Native American sand paintings or Buddhist mandalas, the kolams are part of the cycle of creation and destruction. If the dots represent the obstacles in life and a woman can weave her way through them, her problem solving skills help her be successful in life. It is an environmentally friendly art form as it is created using natural materials like rice flour and rock powder. It is also an artistic approach to mathematics. Mathematicians have been working on the various math concepts involved in Kolam drawing. The concepts range from symmetry at different levels to permutations and combinations to fractals.

Kolam- Green
20"x16"
Acrylic On Canvas
2010
Kolams are made of dots and one or more lines. There are rules that determine the shape of the array of dots and the direction of the lines as they weave around them. The shapes that are formed around each dot depend on the number and position of the dots around it. The lines cannot overlap more than once or go over the same path twice. Also every dot has to be included in a closed line. Keeping these rules in mind, I wanted to play around by placing a tradtional Kolam in a square grid of 25x25 dots and see the effect.
The central Kolam in this painting has rotational symmetry and consits and several repeating smaller units. This Kolam is unique in that the smaller units also have rotational symmetry and has a pattern that repeats diagonally.
Kolam- Red
20"x16"
Acrylic on Canvas
2010
This is another Kolam I incorporated into the 25x25 dot array. The Kolam has reflectional symmetry and is the repetition of two different types of line patterns in the central Kolam. These two line patterns alternate vertically. Also, the negative space that is created by the Kolam interests me.


Kolam- Brown; Four Spirals
20"x16"
Acrylic on Canvas
2011

I was inspired by quilt patterns and created this Kolam based on that. It is a single line Kolam that ends at the same point where it started. The four spirals in the painting create an optical illusion of other shapes. The use of a slight relief work in the dots and lines also gives the impression of a changing pattern as the viewer walks past it.