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  Life   Art  01 Dec 2016  The changing fabric of an artist’s work

The changing fabric of an artist’s work

Published : Dec 1, 2016, 2:45 am IST
Updated : Dec 1, 2016, 6:38 am IST

Hand-woven fabric from various weaving clusters is procured and then the design is actualised on the surface of the white fabric.

Textile artist Neha Puri Dhir’s pieces often involve geometric patterns based around circles.
 Textile artist Neha Puri Dhir’s pieces often involve geometric patterns based around circles.

Textile artist Neha Puri Dhir infuses creativity, originality and design application in her exhibition titled “The Art of Shibori”. Presented by Gallery Art Motif, New Delhi, the exhibition, which will go on till December 17, showcases imaginative works of Dhir in various patterns.

Inspired by a Japanese manual resist dyeing technique on fabric, called Shibori, the artworks require intricate stitching, multiple levels of dyeing and discharging and finally unstitching. Dhir’s design philosophy has been influenced by the Japanese aesthetic Wabi- Sabi, centred on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. And Dhir’s works —  the unpredictable results that resist dyeing present — are congruent with this philosophy. Her work also reflects the sacred traditional techniques like Bandhej from India, and Adire from Nigeria.

Dhir’s tryst with textiles began as a student at the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, when she happened to visit a small village called Paithan in Maharashtra, which is famous for its Paithani sarees, as part of her course curriculum. Saree weaving is an extremely laborious process, to the extent that it takes days just to set the loom for weaving. The diligence and dedication of the weavers left a lasting impression on Dhir. “That was the day I realised my calling for textiles. In this process, I suddenly discovered my latent talent of being able to interact with craftsmen so effortlessly without even knowing their language. I can call it an ‘aha’ moment in the true sense as there was no doubt left in my mind thereafter that it has to be fiber/textiles that I would want to explore for the rest of my life,” says Dhir excitedly.

The laborious process of resist dyeing involves multiple stages. Hand-woven fabric from various weaving clusters is procured and then the design is actualised on the surface of the white fabric. The fabric is layered and folded in a distinctive fashion and what follow are diverse stages of dyeing and resisting on the pre-conceptualised stitched patterns. One needs to be careful while choosing thread count, and the right colours that will interact and blend with each other.

Textile art in India is still picking up, and a lot of the time it’s compared to traditional textile crafts because India’s textile traditions are age-old and are created with great finesse. So what’s the future of textile art? Dhir explains, “I looked at textile just as a medium for self-expression. I relate to fabric more than any other material as my education revolved around textiles… I feel textile and their techniques give wider scope of exploration than a canvas.”

Textile art is an unending canvas. It gives an artist the freedom to choose from a wide range of fabrics — silk, cotton, raw silk, chiffon, polyester, linen etc. “A textile artist is not confined to only a type of fabric, rather textile art encompasses any fabric, technique or a combination of techniques to realise a surface which can be a piece of art also,” elucidates Dhir.

People usually connect with paintings, wall panels and sculptures, but it gets slightly difficult for textile artists as the concept is still picking up in India. Dhir has been using synthetic dye but she also plans to explore natural dye soon. Currently, she’s working on some new techniques within the arena of resist dyeing. “My work is changing, I feel it’s becoming more responsive to the environment and experiences around me. My last two solo shows depicted my inner feelings. But now my ongoing work is a response to environmental changes, pollution, water issues etc,” she quips.

Priced from Rs 90,000 onwards, the works have geometric patterns. Circles and semi-circles aligned and used with various permutations and combinations of colours and patterns lend an ethereal quality to the works. Indigo perfectly blends with mustard to form a unit. Another piece of work uses black and brown in circles as if to depict the waning and waxing of the moon.

The good response to the exhibition is an appreciation of Dhir’s art practice of around four years. “I am happy that textile art has been encouraged… I feel textile fades/warps with time, same as our lives,” says Dhir.

Tags: art, textiles woven, national institute of design