Is life a circle is a question that has been pondered by many thinkers. As much as I try to distance myself from equivocal aphorisms, my encounter with Shanthi Chandrasekar’s art results in myself spotting patterns in the geometry of my work. I am an astrophysicist, I study the signals emitted by black holes to probe the nature of spacetime. Those signals are not made of light nor sounds, there are waves of space itself, that we name gravitational waves. The ones I study are emitted by binary systems of black holes spiraling around each other and getting closer as they lose energy into those waves, until they coalesce into a singular black hole. Black holes are perfect spheres* delimited by an horizon - everything passing the threshold of the horizon border, whether it is an apple, a human or a ray of light, is trapped inside without hope to escape, inevitably attracted towards the singularity at the center of the black hole. For this reason we do not know what occurs inside the black holes, and I need to contempt myself of studying their ballet when they orbit each other along in quasi-circular motion. The gravitational waves that are emitted at the black holes horizons travel until our detectors, LIGO and Virgo, can only detect those tiny ripples in a specific sphere of spacetime as they fade when they travel, diluting their energy in the volume of the Universe. And I am trying to infer from those beyond-microscopic perturbations the nature of the fabric of the Universe. How I arrived to this point has, I realize, some circularity in it: I studied particle physics and cosmology, specialized in particle physics, decided to switch to gravitation, before landing back on the formalism I now manipulate because of its complementary with the quantum physics I used for my previous analyses. I guess that circles are the manifestation of an obsession, in which case my fascination to understand the Universe we live in, through my scientific work but also by exchanging with artists. As I appreciate how the discovery of Shanthi’s art offers a new light on my activities, I am looking forward to our collaboration.
*when they are not spinning, else they become ovoid.
One of my favorite pastimes is daydreaming. Sometimes I imagine myself as an anonymous world changer and create a place where harmony and kindness rule. But most of the time these daydreams take me away from Earth and to the worlds that my SciArt partner, Leihae, studies. I find myself traveling through space and time, moving past other particles, be it subatomic particles in the quantum realms or galaxies at the cosmic levels. These fantastical mental journeys, along with my self-guided research, have been the seeds for my artwork.
My artwork, like my dreams, are a constant exploration of the known and the unknown, and can be unpredictable in the directions they may take. I often find a theme that interests me and linger there for sometime to learn about it and experience it before moving on to another direction, leading to a wide range of interests in my work. Though my path may seem random, there is a strong underlying goal to better understand the universe in which we live and our place in it. Similarly, experimenting with various mediums has also allowed me to attempt to communicate my thoughts across in many different ways. My work ranges from traditional Indian Kolam drawings, endangered languages, to the latest scientific discoveries, often finding ways to juxtapose them in my drawings, paintings and sculptures.
I enjoy finding patterns, similarities and symmetries inherent in our universe and also between seemingly unrelated fields. The cracks on the road, the movement of the clouds and the evaporating drop of water hold my attention and remind me of similar actions that occur at different scales of space and time. I try to capture the transitory nature of subatomic particles where events occur at incomprehensibly small distances and time periods that our limited perceptions cannot perceive. Through my work, I also attempt to capture the other end of the scale where the birth and death of stars and the movement of the galaxies happen at such enormous distances and over long periods of time by our standards, such that our lives seem minuscule and irrelevant. My work has been about finding our place in this infinite cosmos, and coming to terms with our limitations and at the same time celebrating our insatiable curiosity and capacities to unravel these mysteries.
I am very excited about this partnership with Leihae, who has been researching the very fields that I have been interested in - I have so much to learn more about and have many questions that I would like to share with her. As an astrophysicist, Leihae’s expertise in the field of black holes and gravitational waves would be of tremendous help as I would be able to access the science directly from a scientist rather than other indirect resources. Together, I hope to have an interesting and fruitful collaboration during the next few months.