A new exhibition at RMIT Gallery explores an overwhelming sense of Indian cultural identity manifested in the beautiful art of contemporary textiles.
Unfolding: New Indian Textiles (27 March - 30 May) places contemporary Indian textile designers and artists within the wider context of international art and fashion.examining the reinvention of traditional textiles through the sari, uncut cloth, street wear as well as textiles and fibre as contemporary art.
Developed and launched to coincide with artist Maggie Baxter’s new book Unfolding, the exhibition showcases the production methods using traditional skills that have always made Indian textiles unique.
According to RMIT Gallery Director and Chief Curator Suzanne Davies, Indian textile designers are the envy of the rest of the world because they continue to have close, easy contact with all manner of hand production and crafts no longer available elsewhere.
“The works on display illustrate that Indian textiles today include the almost unimaginable plethora of regionally specific skills, techniques and motifs from every state and region in India far exceeding any other country in the enduring, prolific production of its living material culture,” Davies said.
The surface decoration on Indian textiles is inspiring, exhilarating, and overwhelming.
In rural areas clothes can be a riot of competing prints, tie-dye, dense embroidery, mirrors, gota, buttons and tiny bells.
Weavers, embroiderers, block printers are all vital in the production of all these textiles.
The Indian village remains a constant presence in textile production in terms of tradition and subject matter, drawing extensively on the daily life and popular culture of villages and marketplaces.
Yet as much as there is intense decoration in India, there is also restraint.
The minimalist principles of reduction and sparseness – in which the simplest and fewest elements are used to create maximum effect – are integral to Indian culture, where the concept of eliminating all non-essential forms and features is aesthetic and ascetic.
Baxter said her interest was in the way those aspects of traditional Indian life were reinterpreted in the 21st century, such as in the irreverent digital graphics of Play Clan, whose bold and dazzling homewares and saris are on display in the exhibition.
The exhibition features 24 Indian artists, including Himanshu and Dhruti Dogra (Play Clan), Parul Thaker (visual artist) and Bappaditya Biswas (bai lou) who visited RMIT for the opening week, speaking to fashion and textile students about working with tradition in the global economy.