‘Impressions’ unfolds a layered textile story of skill and conceptual brilliance.

Legendary weaves and textile art from Banaras, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan, West Bengal and Andhra, as well as from the forests of tribal India, create indelible Impression at the Hastakala Society’s exhibition celebrating the facets of the textile and crafts story of the country. The ‘Impressions’ tale unfurls the sari wall collage featuring Kanthas alive with peacocks and lotuses, exclusive purple and green Banarasi, gilded Kosa and emerald green Maheshwari, a sari painted in the muted language of kalamkari, ajrakh, chaubundi and Rajasthan appliqué saris, apart from bright Gond paintings contrasting with the subtle vegetable colours of patachitra art.

Exquisite weaves

Dramatic and colourful, these unique saris and fabrics have been created by traditional artisans and brought to ‘Impressions.’ These include dhakkai jamdani and banaras brocades and dilk, tussars and kosas, chanderi and maheshwari, kantha embroidered saris and chikakari, earthy tribal weaves, the precision and exquisite weaves of tie-and-dye saris and the flowing magic of leheriya. It is a layered textile story.

“I can throw a challenge that no one can make the special four-coloured leheriya like I do. It is called Bhopal Shahi since we made a pagdi for Maharana Bhopal Singh of Mewar 125 years ago,” says Mohammad Yunnus, whose family has been in the vocation for close to 700 years. The unmatched ‘bariqi’ of his work is expressed in lyrical designs and colours in saris, dupattas, stoles and yardage.

“Apart from Bariq tie-and-dye, which we make from placing and tying the fabric on false nails or ‘naqlia’ and then dipping the fabric in dyes, I also make multi-coloured bandhej that is a time consuming process. It involves first dyeing the base fabric, followed by doing tying on it and later removing the base dye with acid. Each of Yunnus’s saris is handcraft at its best and a connoisseur’s delight.

So are National awardee Abdul Salam’s Banarasis, many of which feature resurrected Mughal motifs patterned in uncluttered formats. Weaver Saifur Rehman, who has woven many of the saris in the collection on view at ‘Impressions,’ describes the creation process of a dramatic red Banaras silk featuring old-world butties and a brocade pallu full of Mughal roses. “This is a revived pattern and involved ‘khadda’ work while the square patterns on this gold sari is called khandva,” says Saifur Rehman. Abdul Salam’s conceptual brilliance and a colour palette ranging from interplay of jewel colours and soft tones form part of the Banarasi collection.

Fantasy flowers, curling vine and peacocks on Lakshmi Amma’s kalamkari saris tell the story of a thriving textile tradition of Andhra done in colours taken out of ‘pitkari’, indigo, ‘manjishtha’, haldi, iron fillings etc. Kaushik’s dhakkai jamdaanis in pure resham with curling wine and leaf filling the sari canvas is ethereal. The saris come in white on white as well as yellow, red and dramatic black.

Shabbi brings outstanding Maheshwaris created by him in silk-cotton in bold multicoloured stripes and all white Khadi silk saris covered with streaks of yellow. And the magic of blocks is played out from Sanganer’s typical motifs, Dabu-resist and Ajrakh.

All the artisans at ‘Impressions’ are part of the 300 strong Delhi-based Hastakala Society, which is ‘by and for’ the weaver and artisan. Its mission is to take the traditional arts, crafts and weaves of India into a viable, sustainable future.

For craft lovers on the lookout for home décor and gift items, ‘Impressions’ offers a choice of leather puppetry home products, patachitra panels as well as Gond and Madhubani wall hangings.

‘Impressions’ is on view at Lalit Kala Akademi, Greames Road, Chennai till September 8.