Threads of tradition

Opening on October 4 at the Alliance Francaise and curated by Julia Libertad is the exhibition “Thread”.   | Photo Credit: 02dmcUMANAIR

In the city of Delhi one waits for a show that reflects a unique rendition of the arts, one that looks at materiality. And nothing is more distinctive than that of an exhibition that looks deeper at India’s dominant and rich textile tradition.

Opening on October 4 at the Alliance Francaise and curated by Julia Libertad is the exhibition “Thread” — refined by local cultural influence, pushing the technique to its creative limit in a process of appropriation and acculturation lasting more than five centuries.

The doyen of research in textile Priya Ravish Mehra gives us her distilling embers in pashmina darning and tapestries of different threads, while Nidhi Khurana creates little mappings that are named after places. And the third is the wonderful Mathias Spiess, who came in touch with these two talented personalities while he was in Delhi on a residency.

Priya Ravish Mehra last showed at the Eicher Gallery in Delhi in 1997 with Pooja Sood as curator. Her work straddles the technique of darning and she is at present working on a book on Rafooqari.

“The continuing tradition of darning becomes extremely significant in this context,” says Priya. “The special skill of the darners has been helping to rescue a substantial number of priceless shawls from destruction. Darning has kept shawls in circulation and continuous use until today in changing circumstances and in an interesting simultaneous transformation of the product and the market instead of being preserved only in museum collections.”

Asked to reflect upon her work of over nearly two decades, Priya reflects, “Human life is an intimate reflection of the cycles of nature, universal, perennial and all-pervasive. Darkness veils light; light infuses darkness; through increasingly refined gradations of luminosity the gross becomes subtle and density becomes transparency, and the reverse. My current works are based on ‘Life Cycle’, an ongoing stage of my personal journey, expressed and revealed by visible and invisible darning in the once-reliable order of things.”

The edges of gashes and fissures in the vulnerable fabric have to be continuously aligned, firmly yet delicately gripped and sealed stitch by careful stitch to prevent further ripping and other damage and to render the cloth intact and whole.      

All three artists work with textile but their intrinsic inputs have a variety of differences. Mathias’ works have fabric collage on cotton and silk embroidery, he also uses acrylic and lino print on cotton to create islands of contrast. On the other hand, Nidhi creates prototypes of mappings with recycled cloth, paper, silver foil, warrakh and machine stitching and calls them to Mexico, Auroville and Delhi.

Elaborating on her work, Nidhi says, “The cloth and the paper maps I created are no longer useful as geographical research tools but as a medium of communication, a visual trajectory of human thought and tradition.

The works refer to the mapping of an object or an idea, representing a worldview and a certain way of looking at things. Much like the mappamundi that was used to illustrate classical knowledge rather than as an aid in navigation. The works I create are cosmographs of my mind that reflect a history of the various mapping traditions.”

Much like a pilgrimage map that comprises mythical landscapes created through aesthetical impulses; more symbolic than representational, touching the realm of speculation and fancy. Nidhi uses the insignificant katran thrown away by most tailors and designers to create maps of real and imagined spaces, mapping her experiences and those of others she encounters.

Priya goes deeper with a series of tapestries that invite scrutiny and also gives us swatches of antique pashmina and zooms in on the darning done to hold it together from disintegration.

During his residency, Matthias was influenced by the role of textile in the Indian culture and decided to incorporate it into his purely geometrical representations, reimagining patterns in combination with traditional Indian techniques.

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Printable version | Jun 13, 2021 10:52:48 AM |

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