Thread art reaches another level with art designers Gunjan and Rahul

From a distance it looks like a three-dimensional painting, especially when the reflection of light glimmers on the wall that it is mounted. But on close scrutiny, it leaves one surprised. How could a web of extremely thin thread transform into a figure or an abstract design through which one can slide one's finger in and out and yet it doesn't break? The backdrop of this artwork, too, is formed of colourful delicate thread. Since the net of yarn has countless miniscule holes, one can actually peep into the design work to discover more revealing elements on its background. What one sees is the shadow of the ar work and numerous mixed items as small as dots.

The subjects of the works range from a meditative man to a gamut of people to couples in conversations to dialogues with the self. The ‘knitted' human shape is certainly more captivating than non-figure drawings which, nonetheless, intrigue the visual senses for its complexity.

The works in thread art, as the technique is called, are conceptualized by the designer duo Gunjan and Rahul, and was exhibited at Art & You, a new art address in the Capital. It was part of a group exhibition, ‘Amalgamation' curated by Ritu Dhingra.

Gunjan, 38, attempts to unveil some mystery behind these creations, “…thread art work is a tedious process. It needs proper planning as once we start working on it, there can't be any going back because it can neither be remade nor redesigned…one work comes only in one edition.”

The designers first plan the work on paper by creating its actual size. The process is called base making. They then draw the ‘subject' on a desired scale on paper and spread thread over it. The next steps involve stitching the thread to the form followed by removing the paper from the base. They subsequently make the background of net and stitch it to the ‘subject'. Making a frame for these artworks is an uphill task as well, for one wrong step in fixing it can pull the net of thread to a wrong direction and damage the whole work.

The threads that are used are first washed before spreading on the base and then rewashed after the painting is complete. Gunjan explains why, “We have to wash it to sanitise and retain the original size of the yarn. Moreover, while stitching the net, some joints may be missed so washing helps in connecting the loose ends better.”

He delves into other interesting elements. “Most of the time we do not get identical-coloured yarn which we collect from different sources such as tailors, cloth factories, export waste and so on. Therefore, we have to make do with whatever colours are available to us. With those we make moods of the subject or abstract designs. For us, it can never go the conventional way like red colour for passion and black for the devil. This often becomes a challenge in the face of demands by customers.” Gunjan recalls an instance where a customer wanted him to redesign his work of art he saw in a show.

“He wanted the same design but on a mammoth size which wasn't possible. So I went to his home, saw the wall size and created another huge figure, expanded the thread backdrop and added to the frame size. He was happy.”

One may suspect the durability of such creations, but Gunjan clarifies, “Except that they are vulnerable to fire as any work of art, they are as durable as oil paintings because we also use strong steel threads which we procure from Jindal Steel. They use the steel thread in the rim of tyres and the rest of the industrial waste comes to us.” Rahul chips in, “Our works are of recycled yarn, which makes them also eco-friendly.”

The duo has been involved in thread art creations for four years now. They held successful shows at Nehru Centre in London, Dubai and across the country.

Keywords: thread artGunjanRahul