At Dhi Artspace Hyderabad, a cross between arts and crafts, from crochet to kalamkari

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At Dhi Artspace in Hyderabad, the Crafting the Crossroad exhibition shows how five contemporary artists find inspiration in traditional crafts

At Dhi Artspace in Hyderabad, the Crafting the Crossroad exhibition shows how five contemporary artists find inspiration in traditional crafts

Bamboo, crochet, beaded, hand-painted kalamkari and crochet artworks greet visitors at Dhi Artspace, Hyderabad. The exhibition, entitled Crafting the Crossroad, is an attempt to use craft as a fine art. The five participating artists try to address questions of identity and to show the history and cultural context of the craft. The exhibition, curated by Somedutta Mallik, focuses on the works of the artists Chathuri Nissansala, Shruti Mahajan, Mousumi Karmakar, Rajarshi Sengupta and Susanna Bauer.

In memory of the Easter bombs

Chathuri Nissansala, a multidisciplinary artist from Sri Lanka, pays homage to those who lost their lives in the suicide bombings that rocked Colombo at Easter 2019. Her series is titled ‘When flesh fades, all you have left is the memory of her’. She uses broken and disassembled idols collected from the sites of the bombings and utilizes beadwork and costume making techniques from southern Sri Lanka to create artworks that can start a dialogue about the unrest and violence in her country. Her research led her to the new memorials in the attacked churches, where she saw recovered materials on display to commemorate those who died. The costumes she uses to dress up the idols and found objects are a dying craft native to the coastal region of Matara, Sri Lanka. Chathuri was apprenticed to Somapala Pothupitiya, who is reportedly one of the last craftsmen from the Navandanne community to practice the technique. Keen on understanding the tradition of ritual costume making, Chathuri also wanted to create a new discourse, using it to evoke a sense of healing and hope.

Mousumi Karmakar is inspired by bamboo and palm fiber fishing cages in West Bengal

Mousumi Karmakar takes inspiration from bamboo and palm fiber fishing cages in West Bengal | Photo credit: special agreement

Mousumi Karmakar’s work takes inspiration from the fishing community in West Bengal. The Kolkata artist draws the viewer’s attention to bamboo and palm fiber cages used by some of the fishing communities. The cage with criss-cross grid patterns catches the fish when lowered into the water. Mousumi uses bamboo and palm fibers to build architectural models as well as small portraits of handicrafts. Having grown up watching her father, a carpenter, make various objects, she was inclined to make structures and her art practice helped her create abstract sculptural forms.

Not just a sheet

Susanna Bauer's delicate crochet work on a leaf

Susanna Bauer’s Delicate Crochet on a Leaf | Photo credit: special agreement

Susanna Bauer uses natural leaves and crochet to draw our attention to the beauty and intricacies of the environment and the relationships we form with the world. A close look at the lone leaf that is framed and the delicate lace crochet comes to light. The artist, who is originally from Germany and now works in the UK, reveals in her statement that handmade lace crochet on leaves is a laborious technique given the fragility of the surface material – leaf. She uses fine hooks, needles and thread to make patterns on leaves. She also works with crochet to connect and reshape leaves and form branching structures.

Kalamkari artwork by Rajarshi Sengupta

Kalamkari artwork by Rajarshi Sengupta | Photo credit: special agreement

Hand-painted kalamkari become the medium through which Rajarshi Sengupta reflects on early waterfront settlements, the lifestyles of handicraft communities, and trade routes. A Kalamkari artwork in natural colors displayed on a table has multiple images that can be viewed from different angles. Some of the images in his work reflect how the Kalamkari artisans wash and dye the fabric, landscapes and other details. During his visits to Kalamkari handicraft clusters in Machilipatnam, he found images relating to the 17th and 18th centuries and Southeast Asian cultures, which were introduced to the craftsmen thanks to the trade routes. Rajarshi’s work also recognizes the utilitarian aspect of kalamkari in the form of pillowcases and bags. Some of his works from the series were exhibited at the Salar Jung Museum in Hyderabad late last year.

warp and weft

Shruti Mahajan's work is inspired by the weaving process

Shruti Mahajan’s work inspired by the weaving process | Photo credit: special agreement

Shruti Mahajan draws inspiration from the time she spent in Maheshwar, observing how skilled weavers process warp and weft threads into handwoven fabrics. She uses the technique of weaving but transforms a piece of fabric into a work of art, employing smocking techniques and delicately playing off a wavy, patterned border reminiscent of lace. Elsewhere, she draws with a ballpoint pen over butterpaper to bring light and shadow patterns to the surface that represent day and night, turning it into a piece that can be a conversation starter about the techniques involved and the history of the craft.

( Crafting the Crossroad is on view at Dhi ArtSpace, Hyderabad until August 21st.)

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