Artist Seema Kohli has been exploring the concept of energy, especially feminine energy, in her work for decades. So when she got a chance to create an artwork in collaboration with Olympian boxer M.C. Mary Kom as part of the India on Canvas art event, it struck her as a great fit.

“Mary Kom is a fighter; not just in the boxing ring, but in life also," says Kohli. “There is a male component in feminine energy too; and if you can balance that, you can win the world. Mary Kom has done it. And that’s why it was appropriate that she and I should work together (on Gandharvas)," she adds.

Gandharvas, one of Kohli’s most recent works, is a mixed-media piece of 60x70 inches. Gandharvas were the heavenly musicians in Indian mythology. To Kohli, however, they represent “unseen flying bodies which give out their energy to us". The work depicts a male figure and a female figure dancing, representing harmony in the masculine and feminine energies. Kohli says Kom and she developed the concept when they met in Pune last year for the project. The painting will be auctioned at India on Canvas in the Capital on 15 January.

The fourth edition of India on Canvas will feature collaborations between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and artist Satish Gupta, industrialist Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw and painter Anjolie Ela Menon, and writer Chetan Bhagat and artist Arunanshu Chowdhury. Vivek Khushalani, president of Khushii, the non-governmental organization that holds the event, did not give details on the Modi-Gupta works.

The four women Kohli has collaborated with are Kom, Union minister Nirmala Sitharaman, architect and interior designer Alpana Kirloskar, and Sakshi Salve, daughter of lawyer Harish Salve and author of a forthcoming parody on the big Indian wedding.

Khushii, which focuses on education and runs programmes for underprivileged children in the Capital, has artists collaborating with politicians, actors, industrialists and sportspeople, among other celebrities, for the fund-raising event. The NGO, founded by cricketer Kapil Dev in 2002, has been holding the event since 2006.

Khushalani says, “Nine out of 10 times, the celebrity—whether it’s an actor, politician or industrialist—will buy the painting they work on." This year, the proceeds from the auction will be used for school uniforms, midday meals and infrastructure for school students.

For artists like Kohli, the event acts as a platform to meet and work with others. Creating art can sometimes be a lonely, and inward-looking, process. Kohli says she enjoyed the company of the women she worked with. “Each of them had something philosophic about them. I loved seeing how they connected with my art too," she says.

India on Canvas will be on preview from 9-13 January, 11am-6pm, at 45, Silver Oaks Farm, Ram Mandir Road, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi. The auction is on 15 January, 6.30pm onwards, at the residence of the British high commissioner, New Delhi. Prices start at 1.5 lakh.

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