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Aussie aesthetic

Graphic design and chikankari-inspired motifs fused in an intriguing show by Mandy Ridley

The artist attempted to make a tender visual statement using motifs and suggestions.

A SET of colourful and joyous panels created by Mandy Ridley marked the exhibition titled Public/ Private — A Small Token. The body of work comprised 14 polypropylene panels on which the Australian artist has featured laser and hand-cut motifs. Four of them feature embroidered botanical drawings prominently while the remaining panels presented five base motifs in repeat format using computer-driven laser cutting technology. The project was assisted by the Australia Council Visual Arts and Crafts Strategy Grants Scheme.

"Made to mark my return to India, this work originated with a desire to bring an exhibition expressing my particular Australian perspective," said Mandy, who was a participant of Khoj 2002 International Artists Workshop in Mysore. "Plant forms from my neighbourhood, sketched during concept design for a public art project were further developed for this exhibition to become potent tokens of my environment."

Mandy, who lives and works in Brisbane, has a Master of Arts (MFA) from Queensland University of Technology. A public art project in her hometown had commissioned her to generate designs to be worked on large aluminium sheets. However, when that project did not materialise, she reinvented the designs exploring colour, craftsmanship, and pattern. The plant forms, which were initially expressed as delicate drawings, were later translated into embroidery — inspired by chikankari, the traditional Indian needlecraft that is a specialty of Uttar Pradesh. As one viewed the work on display, it was clear that the artist was trying to make a tender visual statement using lively motifs and suggestions. One could also perceive elements of decoration and ornamentation, which were not specifically incisive or penetrating.

Even so, the collective impact of the work was that of a subdued grandeur with traces of aesthetic evocation. The lightness and translucency of the material was creatively employed to produce a pleasant visual sensation.

The first four panels highlighted Mandy's penchant as a graphic designer where the upper half had colourful motifs of polypropylene sheets, while the lower portion bore the embroidered outlines. Although there is no direct link between the two either in form or material, they were well positioned and composed to simulate comfortable coexistence.

Hung neatly in several rows, the remaining panels struck the viewer by their cheery disposition, aided by delicately structured curves and contours. The basic shapes and multihued patterns were balanced in a gentle rhythm. In some panels, one could sight a well-sequenced movement, while in others the stillness of the arrangement was more visible. In a panel, where the artist has worked by juxtaposing red and yellow patterns, the effect was particularly inspired.


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