Pretty patterns on luxurious fabrics – this is the kind of cloth you want to frame up on the wall, not wear. For a few more days, you can view the artwork of textile-maker Neha Puri Dhir at Art Gallery, India International Centre, New Delhi. Her exhibition ‘Amoolya’ is on till August 31, 2014.
The pieces in this show were part of Baroda-based Dhir’s design practice called Mool – which Dhir says is the embodiment of her personal interest in the concept of the ‘fundamental’, her search for the most basic form of an object or a process. The NID, Ahmedabad, graduate has obviously got a thing for geometry. Using resist-dyed techniques on high-quality silk, these are circles and triangles of an inspired mind. She calls it the culmination of the union between philosophy and practice.
Each artwork passes through several hands: from Dhir herself to the spinners and weavers of the silk, to the craftsmen who collaborate with Dhir to realise her vision.
Dhir, who did her Master’s in Strategic Design in Milan followed by a second Master’s degree in Textile Futures in London, has extensive experience working in the field of crafts, education and industry in India. She’s gets an exceptional kick from exploring dyeing techniques in Kutch (Gujarat), shawl weaving in Kullu and Kinnauri (Himachal Pradesh), Tussar silk making in Jharkhand and Tholu Bommalata or leather puppet craft (Andhra Pradesh). In ‘Amoolya’, she references shibori from Japan, bandhej from India, and adiré from Nigeria. Yup, this woman is all over the place.
Dhir sources her materials from places where she has developed close collaborations with craftsmen over the course of her career. These partnerships bring “craft wisdom” to the process, enabling her to work with intricate methods like seamless repeats and detailed geometric folding. Like washes of colour or the working of needle and thread, the people who contribute to these pieces add many layers of interpretation to each work of art, she says. As her spokesperson explains, “Each piece in Amoolya represents a serendipitous harmony of structure and fluidity, intention and chance, perfection and imperfection, craft and art, freedom and control.”
Dhir goes the finer details.
“I am absorbed by the innumerable possibilities offered by geometry. To me, geometry represents the bridge between art and mathematics. I begin by working with basic shapes and grids, developing them to represent complex ideas using an essential language of dots and lines. Once these ‘sketches’ are created, I transpose them to the medium of textiles – working with the technique of resist-dying as my brush.”
“Silk sourced from various weaving clusters across India is finely stitched and dyed multiple times. The nuances of stitch-resist are seen as subtle perforations on the final fabric surface, and they are integrated into the final work. Every pattern is planned meticulously – the colours require precise chemistry. Each step adds complexity to the cloth but even though the entire process is worked out in detail, the work that emerges is an outcome of chance.”
“My inspirations for the pieces in Amoolya come from varied disciplines – I connect diverse and often unrelated ideas to evolve a distinct response. This process is actually a vital component of my work – I’m inspired by my research at NID, and am linked to the pedagogy of design schools such as Bauhaus and HfG Ulm in Germany.”