Pritam Bhatty's 'Time Passages' combines the structure of prints with the spontaneity of watercolours.

Sepia-tinted images and yellowing letters stashed in a corner of old cupboards can open up memories associated with a family’s history. After years of portraying human emotions through her dreamy watercolours, artist Pritam Bhatty recreated the life and times of her clan based on her great-grandfather’s diary dating back to 1897.

A collection of digital prints over canvas with embroidery, acrylic paint and image transfers, Time Passages combines the structure of prints with the spontaneity of watercolours.

“I photographed the diary and its contents and made digital collages. Images of my own watercolour paintings, and image transfers of family members, are ‘stitched’ together using embroidery to form a composite whole. It was a Herculean task to not indulge in nostalgia and make the final piece a work of art” says Pritam.

“As children we were told stories about the people in the photographs. The family history has fascinated me no end! A rebellious great-grandfather who fought to marry his love; a dacoit; a Sri-Lankan grandmother; shikaars... my family’s history is a kaleidoscope of all such interesting stories, which I have sought to layer with my own perception, instead of presenting them in uni-dimensionally.”

While photography was the medium to best capture moments engraved in the fading diaries, Pritam used embroidery to symbolically ‘stitch’ the family together through her works.

“I started with knitting. But it didn't work out practically, so I switched to embroidery. I like the idea of piercing the canvas with a needle; it is symbolic of keeping memories, emotional connections and the layering of time.”

Bottomline: Family history on canvas

Time Passages by Pritam Bhatty

Where: Gallery Beyond, Lion’s Gate, Mumbai

When: On till April 14