Paintings of Raja Ravi Varma weaved into 33 saris by Gaurang Shah, ready for exhibition worldwide

Paintings of iconic artist Raja Ravi Varma replicated in weaves by Gaurang Shah will travel to museums in the country and abroad
Saris by Gaurang Shah
Saris by Gaurang Shah

National Award-winning designer Gaurang Shah and his team recreated 30 paintings of Raja Ravi Varma on saris. The paintings weaved in saree pallus with all over 600 shades of yarn have the same quality of light and shade of the original work.

Gaurang employed several natural dye artistes, carefully chosen across the country to complete this challenging project.

"To begin with samples of yarn were developed range from fluorescent greens to lilacs, peachy pinks to sea blues — hues that one normally doesn’t come across in natural dyes. Each colour has gone through many stages — applying a dye, then dipping the yarn in alum and drying, then applying another colour that neutralises the tone and again alum," tells Gaurang about the project. 

This project was conceived in collaboration with Raja Ravi Varma Foundation and was kick-started with Gaurang procuring 54 lithographs. All the weaving of the paintings has been done on khadi sarees in jamdani weaves, which will be showcased in various museums worldwide.

<em>Saris by Gaurang Shah</em>
Saris by Gaurang Shah

The paintings are chosen from three categories — women in Raja Ravi Varma paintings, gods and goddesses, and stories.

This is amongst Gaurang’s most challenging project.  “Raja Ravi Varma used only natural colours for his paintings, in combinations of four primary colours. We opted to do it with natural dyes to preserve the ethos,” he adds.

Six hundred shades and hues of naturally dyed textured silk yarns were developed to give the 3D effect while recreating the paintings in Jamdani weaves. Junaid Khatri the master craftsman from Kutch, with his deep knowledge of natural dyes, took up this challenge and used unconventional methods to create colours which have never been done before. 

<em>Saris with Raja Ravi Varma's paintings by Gaurang Shah</em>
Saris with Raja Ravi Varma's paintings by Gaurang Shah

"For instance, eight to ten shades of each colour were created; in white alone, he created twelve shades as each shade is significant to throw life to the nuances of the painting. To a layman, it may all just seem as white but if that particular shade of white is not used the painting cannot be replicated in the weaving perfectly," explains Gaurang.

Gaurang further states, “These tonal differences were achieved by the dye that was used, and the conditions in which the yarns were dried. If it was the summer’s sunlight the colours would be bright and shiny, but if it was the winter’s sunlight the shade was more muted. Some colours had to be dried in the shade to retain its colour. Once the shade was achieved, it would be treated to colour fix it".

<em>Saris with Raja Ravi Varma's paintings by Gaurang Shah</em>
Saris with Raja Ravi Varma's paintings by Gaurang Shah

While the dying process of the yarns was done, his dyer had to live the painting, think about what time the painting was set, what kind of sunlight it had at that time of the day, how does the setting sun affect the sari colours as opposed to the rising sun, if it was indoors, then what was the light source and how it affected her skin tone and other such nuances.

The collection has already been displayed in Mumbai's National Gallery of Modern Art on the eve of the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi and now it will travel to the rest of the country and abroad.

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