Artist Anil Revri's "Wall for Peace 2011," a sculpture featuring quotations about peace from Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and Sikhism, is on display at Washington Dulles International Airport. Revri, originally from India, moved to the U.S. 30 years ago and lives with his family in Northwest D.C.
Do you consider yourself to be of a specific faith?
No. My family has drawn strength from the basic tenets of Hinduism: While there is one truth, there are many paths to that truth. As a result, my extended family includes people of different faiths.
Why has the idea of religious tolerance captivated you?
The power of religion in its public and private uses is so obvious that it needs no explanation; nor does its misuse for personal and political gain or the catastrophic impact of religious fanaticism. From India, my family and I have experienced both the horrors of this fanaticism and been nourished by the diversity of many faiths — Baha’i, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Islamic, Jain, Jewish, Sikh and Zoroastrian.
I grew up in India 10 years after partition, an event that marked the end of British colonial rule in India with the creation of two separate countries — Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan. Like thousands of families on either side of the divide, my
family had fled their ancestral home in Lahore and arrived in New Delhi as refugees. Therefore, the subject of peaceful and non-violent resolutions to conflict holds a special place in my heart, and I have incorporated these ideas it into my work in the last 15 years. Most notably, my recent interfaith initiative, “Faith and Liberation Through Abstraction,” at American University draws inspiration from a quotation by Mahatma Gandhi: “Religion itself is outraged when outrage is perpetrated in its name.”
Do you experience the religious or spiritual through your art?
Not religious, but spiritual. Ultimately, the realization of God is a one-on-one experience. As the majority of humankind belongs to one of the following religions — Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Sikhism — I have incorporated themes related to peace, desire, lust and greed, and renunciation from all six religions to visually illustrate how similar values have been interpreted by peoples of different faiths in the course of history.
The paintings are designed to encourage introspection and serve a dual function. They are simultaneously visual aids to meditation and meditations in themselves. The idea is to draw the viewer’s attention from the outermost edges of the canvas to its perspectival depth, where they may encounter an unseen energy. “Wall for Peace,” an LED sculpture, was inspired by the idea of circumambulation in different religions. It displays English translations of scriptures related to peace from six religions that scroll across the entire surface of the unit ad infinitum. Rays of light emanating from the unit projected onto the viewers as they walk around the work become a symbolic act of cleansing of religious and racial prejudices.
At your core, what is one of your defining beliefs?
Try and be a good human being. Everything else will fall into place.