By Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum
Curated by Tasneem Zakaria Mehta and Puja Vaish [DEC 2, 2018 - FEB 17, 2019]
The exhibition attempts to trace textile practices, traditions and histories in contemporary Indian Art. As a medium, textile has an intrinsic meaning and context. The material’s history, its modes of production and its function as a cultural object inform its use in contemporary art practice.
Juxtaposed with the Museum’s textile collection, the exhibition reexamines the narratives invoked through a range of artworks. It showcases many forms of artistic practice that have approached the process of art-making by engaging ‘craft’ and ‘traditional’ practices, to address contemporary concerns.
Connecting Threads: Textiles in Contemporary Practice (2019) by Dr. Bhau Daji Lad MuseumDr. Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum
Rivers of Blood is the visual rendering of a diary that Sengupta wrote documenting her travels through Bangladesh. It is the story of countless families displaced by the Partition, one of the most significant events in the history of the Indian Subcontinent.
The Bombay Weaves (2015) by Sharmila SamantDr. Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum
Samant's interactive work draws attention to the handmade production of textiles through the loom, while creating a fabric that metaphorically represents the varied demographic that together forms the fabric of Mumbai.
Samant uses industrially produced bottle caps to create unique individual pieces. Placed next to a hand-embroidered textile from Sindh, it evokes the politics of methods and modes of production as increasingly handmade becomes a luxury item & weavers have become factory workers.
Hailing from a family of textile artisans, Nai frequently uses discarded clothes, compressed together to create minimalist geometric forms. Displayed within a frame, these forms tread the line between painting and sculpture, promoting the idea of recycling & sustainability.
Running Thread (2018) by Monali MeherDr. Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum
Meher's site-specific work involves wrapping a portion of the Museum’s staircase in red wool, engaging directly with its historic architecture. The staircase represents a threshold that draws metaphorical meanings of transformations and connections between the past and the present.
The artist wraps a chandelier in red wool, transforming it and assigning it new meanings. The act of wrapping red wool is time-consuming and repetitive, highlighting the meditative process. Metaphorically, the chandelier represents female Shakti – the giver of light.
Untitled (2011) by Shakuntala KulkarniDr. Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum
The 'wearable sculptures' traverse a space where historical objects like armour and elaborately designed costumes or dresses of different communities are brought together by re-articulating their usage and medium, collapsing the two and blurring cultural and visual boundaries.
Beehive (2018) by Anju DodiyaDr. Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum
The show features two works by Anju Dodiya, Beehive, and Ignition, flanked on both sides of the Museum's staircase. The works are evocative of upholsteries used in household spaces. It lays bare the tensions between personal, political and collective histories and events.
All Fair in Magic White; Installation view (2008) by Archana HandeDr. Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum
Hande uses fabric as a medium to narrate a satirical story that comments on the rapid urban growth and aspirational plans for the revitalisation of Mumbai that are rooted in the history of class, race, and power given the city's colonial and industrial history.
The series Vices is based on the seven deadly sins, a popular theme among 14th century European artists. Vanity, one of the seven vices, was a common theme of traditional still life painting referring to the transient nature of physical beauty.
Ah (Oh sigh); Silence (Blood Wedding) & Portrait of a Mohammedan Woman, Christian Woman & Hindoo Woman; installation view (1999) by Anita Dube and Pushpamala NDr. Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum
Dube transforms a skeleton, formerly used by her brother while studying medicine, into objects including a garland, a fan, and a flower, among others, wrapped in red velvet. The bones embody a juxtaposition between notions of death and desire when covered by the opulent fabric.
In this work Ah (Oh sigh), the wrapped fibreglass objects with black velvet explode from the canvas like menacing surreal hands, about to grab the viewer. The juxtaposition of an image of protesting marginalized people with threatening velvet structures creates a poetic frisson.
The work features 3 portraits of women from different communities. The carpet & vases placed on colonial-style tables come from the days when ethnographic documentation of natives ignored their individuality, noticing in them only representatives of communities, trade or caste.
The Navarasa Suite (Sringara, Hasya, Bhibhatsa, Karuna, Shanta, Veera, Adbhuta, Raudra, Bhayanaka) is a set of self-portraits based on 9 moods of the Rasa theory of Indian Aesthetics. Through the works, Pushpamala questions stereotypical conventions associated with femininity.
Fruits of Labour (A Monument to Exhaustion) (2013) by Rakhi PeswaniDr. Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum
This work attempts to take textiles and transform them into spatial metaphors, engaging the viewer with cultural narratives seeping from the physicality of the medium of fabric. The rudimentary impression of the work is derived from temporary relief shelters/tents pitched at sites of displacement, migration and various intensities of these situations.
Enshrined (2016) by Manisha ParekhDr. Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum
Displayed in an intimate narrow passage in the gallery, Parekh's work responds to her visits to pilgrimage sites. Intricate small, solid forms made of fabric, including velvet and silk, are carefully organized within the structures and represent personal shrines.
Rozgar (left) and Rafoogari (right); Installation view (2011) by Nilima Sheikh, Priya Ravish MehraDr. Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum
The artist's Rozgar series draws from a 19th-century manuscript depicting professions in Kashmir. Sheikh recreates figures of labourers and tools, by hand on tracing paper. She articulates her understanding of miniature painting traditions and skills and layers her works with textual references to reflect on contemporary socio-political and cultural discourses.
Priya Ravish Mehra
Mehra worked with Rafoogari, a traditional form of darning that is used to repair damages, especially tears and moth holes in textiles. She became interested in Rafoogari upon realizing its absence in the context of textile history.
Dawood interweaves histories, realities and symbolism to create richly layered artworks. The original textiles, from which Dawood’s works are based, were created by nomadic weavers in South Asia through the 1970s. Composed of discarded scraps from textile factories, the fabrics also attest to an earlier, more utopian globalisation.
Walls of the Womb (2007) by Reena Saini KallatDr. Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum
Reena Saini Kallat
This series by Kallat is autobiographical in nature. Artist's associations with motherhood are carried through the symbolic usage of the saree and the recipes from her mother’s books extend it further by evoking notions of nurturing and nourishing.
In this work, viewers are invited to walk along a passage of fabric panels that depict Lazaro’s family history. The association between the images and patterns within his work appears to be linked ostensibly with the artists’ memories.
Participating artists: Anita Dube, Anju Dodiya, Archana Hande, Desmond Lazaro, Lavanya Mani, Manish Nai, Manisha Parekh, Monali Meher, Nilima Sheikh, Paula Sengupta, Priya Ravish Mehra, Pushpamala N, Rakhi Peswani, Reena Saini Kallat, Shakuntala Kulkarni, Sharmila Samant, Shezad Dawood.
Acknowledgments: Chemould Prescott Road, Mumbai; Guild, Mumbai; Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke, Mumbai; Nature Morte, New Delhi, Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi; Akar Prakar, Kolkata.
We would like to thank the following individuals and institutions who loaned works for the exhibition: Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, (KNMA) New Delhi; Devi Art Foundation, New Delhi; Anandi Mehra, holder of the estate of Priya Ravish Mehra; Ms. Shilpa Kalanjee.