Curatorial Text

“I identified historical hierarchical division of the arts into fine arts and craft as a major force in the marginalisation of women’s work.”  

Rozsika Parker, The Subversive Stitch: Embroidery and the Making of the Feminine

This show is an outcome of a long term engagement in understanding the different trajectories involved in the diverse materials and its experimentation in art by women artists in distinctive ways. This in a way, builds a counter current against the hierarchic notion of art and craft underlined by modern critic like Clement Greenberg. The ensemble of artistic practices highlighted in this show invoke the idea of plurality with a nuanced understanding. In a time when regimentation forced through political ideology, has pervaded different intellectual and cultural institutions; there is a need for a critical dialogue questioning and restricting the entrenched authoritarianism.

It is also a factor that in the various works that this show explores do not restrict itself to any particular ideology, style, aesthetics and so forth. Instances of experimental works with a variety of materials and processes like embroidery, weaving, printing and painting on different fabrics, paper, wool, leather, tarpaulin and other materials could be found in the works of Ekta Singha, Piyali Sadhukhan, Promiti Hossain and Sharmishtha Kar. The works on one hand, delve into some strong concepts like questioning the totalitarian notion of surveillance of individuals, manifested through weaved physical forms that hint towards the ills of the manipulative state apparatuses in Piyali’s work, whereas Promiti tries to create an understanding of the socio-political tenets behind a material like leather and the complex transformation from a skin to a leather; from a personal physical element to a manufactured product through metaphorical means. On the other hand, multiple types of fabrics, papers and different styles of embroidery, printing and painting became tools to articulate personal, political and social aspects behind migration, displacement, identity, craft as well as the temporality of memories and experiences perceived through different trajectories in the works of Ekta Singha and Sharmistha Kar. It is important to note that these artworks do not associate with any particular idea of femininity but it surely challenges the artificial construct of gender often attached to certain materials and methods like fabric, embroidery, etc. Such materials and methods had been kept out of the threshold of academic curriculum as well as mainstream art practice due to its status of affiliation with craft and the subsequent hierarchic conflict with conventional/academic media and methods.

Going beyond the conventional media and methods, artists like Dinar Sultana, Rakhi Peswani, Pooja Iranna and Sadhvi Jawa have constructed a language that accumulates indigenous, experimental, industrial and mundane materials processed through individuation that challenges the norms of conventional academic/mainstream art practices. Transient character of nature got translated through a layer of political and social underpinnings in the painstaking process of paper, natural colours and other indigenous elements in Dinar’s work whereas Rakhi’s work investigates the critical aspect of labour/craft and its lack of recognition in the society through tactile, sculptural and assemblage forms. A manufactured industrial product like staple pins find a different identity in Pooja Iranna’s work. The staple pin structures comment on the problematic notion of development through constant construction, deconstruction and reconstruction in urban milieu heading towards an unwanted abundance of concrete jungle of uniformed buildings. The complexity of urbanism gets a different conceptual intervention through the fascinating weaved forms in Sadhvi Jawa’s work. She articulates the fading memories and trajectories of a city driven by feigned concept of development that does not take into account the diversity of different cultures and communities in an urban society.

The idea of ‘material’ finds a critical resonance through aesthetic, metaphorical, social moorings in the works of Kshitija Bhamre, Mansi Trivedi, Puja Mondal and Sadhana Naskar’s work. The personal experience of transforming physical appearance and the social behaviour towards that change finds an intriguing reflection in Kshitija’s work where the hybrid forms made of paper pulp and wired structures personify her psychological state during the physiological transformation. A play with texture and material surface assimilated through metaphorical and pragmatic understanding of contemporary time, space and nature creates the core for Mansi and Puja’s work where accidents, ruptures, textures connote individual aesthetical sensibilities of the artists. Different material like cigarette butts, foils, wax, tissue paper, ink and soot are part of an oeuvre that is replete with ontological and experimental suggestions. The non-representative oeuvre of Sadhana hints at an existentialist notion through a sense of isolation, suggesting the recent crisis driven by pandemic and its social effects.

There is a cartographic endeavour in this curation and in articulating and observing the time and its resonance through material identified in individual artistic language with varied perception by women from different registers. It is to articulate and put forward certain practices that embody a concept of multiplicity through its physical form as well as conceptual grounding. This show is aimed to enable the viewers to embark on an ontological journey that navigates through certain terrains of intellectual and material intervention.

-Aranya Bhowmik

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