Pallankuzhi on the pallu

Lakshmi Srinath with her creation. Photo: K. V. Srinivasan  

The cool grey of granite, the lustrous white of sea shells, the bright red of vermilion and circassian seeds, and deepest black come together to create these saris inspired by traditional games found etched on temple floors.

The wealth of traditional games of Tamil Nadu is indeed impressive.

Travellers would relax in choultries rolling the dice on chequered floors. Women would light up their leisure after completing household chores by putting in or scooping out kundumani from pallankuzhi containers. Children would engage in Aadu puliyattam pitting “tigers” and “goats” against one another.

These saris created by Lakshmi Srinath reflect our heritage of leisure, crafts and textiles. They are in collaboration with Kreeda on display at an exhibition and sale at the Amethyst up to the end of the month . They deal with the games in the temples in and around the city.

The saris are not many in number. When they are opened out, dramatic patterns emerge. They reveal how imaginatively these games have been translated into ideas and art. The background of many of the saris is predominantly grey to reflect temple floors though there are some in other colours.

The pallus are the highlights with daya-k-kattam (dice board with squares), stars or the red seed filled containers of the pallankuzhi running across their length and breadth. The effects are created through shibori, tie and dye, embroidery, cut work and cording. Some of the materials used for the saris are Chanderi, silk, soft cotton and khadi.

“Vinita Siddhartha of Kreeda who has helped revive these traditional games, gave me the idea to design these saris for an event to celebrate Madras Week and so I focussed on the temples in the city. She spoke about them and historian Chithra Madhavan created another dimension by talking about the significance their association with temples,” says Lakshmi.

The saris were all created by her at her design studio Tvam at R.A. Puram. The games that inspired them were aadu puliyattam, pallankuzhi, nakshatra vilayattu, dahdi, kattam vilayattu and panch keliya. The lingam of the Marundeeswarar temple subtly finds representation in a yellow and black sari. The sugarcane fields that once filled the land where the Vadivudai Amman temple stands are evoked through the deep purple of another. The Aadu puliyattam at the Prasanna Venkateswara Perumal temple is seen as a slash of copper coins against gold to depict the legend of a devotee and the miracle that turned his dream into reality.

“Though I majored in Fine Arts from the Stella Maris College, my art took a new meaning after meeting A. V. Ilango,” says Lakshmi. She draws her inspiration from a life where tradition has played an intrinsic part. Her assemblages, canvasses and stone installations are vibrant compositions. “Growing up in a traditional family, one absorbed colours and ritualistic concepts on a daily basis,” she says. And these have found reflection in her art.

According to her, there is a great power in certain colours such as red, black and yellow. “The dark interiors of temples lit up by a single lamp exudes so much energy. It is all this imagery that perhaps has influenced me,” she says.

“I use the Bindu and I have been inspired by Raza,” she admits. “I find a lot of power in primordial shapes — the triangle (yoni), the square, the ellipsis (phallus)... the forms that exist in Nature,” she adds.

Lakshmi started off her exploration in art with landscapes and still life. “Images that captured the objects of a bygone era like the ammikkal, the coconut scraper and brass utensils, for instance. I then went into abstracts and later started using threads,” she explains. The thread became a vital element in her art. “ “The thread is inextricably woven with rites of passage. Symbolic of connectivity, creativity and bondage — it is ever present from life to death,” she observes.

“Sutra”, her exhibition grew out of this fascination

Lakshmi has exhibited art in shows in the country and abroad. She was a participant in Salon de Printemps held in the Societe Lyonnaise des beaux Arts, Lyons, France and has won the Prix de La Contemporaire award. She is a fashion designer who began with designing clothes for children before her art morphed into saris.

After Uma Ganesan sought her out to design the costume for the dance-drama ‘Silappadikaram’ for the Cleveland Dance Alliance, Lakshmi began designing for theatre productions. “The supreme moment for me as an artist was when ‘Sillappadikaram’ was performed at The Metropolitan Museum in New York,” she says.

Lakshmi has designed costume for plays by the Madras Players including ‘The Song of the Loom’ and also for Just Us Repertory’s ‘Rural Phantasy’ and other productions. “I have been designing Priyadarsini Govind’s Bharatnatyam costume for years now,” she adds.

To Lakshmi fashioning jewellery is also an integral part of her creativity. “I enjoy all of it. For me, whatever I do whether on stage, sari or canvas, it has to be visually balanced.”

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Printable version | Jan 17, 2022 1:20:38 AM |

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