Sandipta Sen rocks in four looks from CIMA Art in Life's upcoming exhibition
This year, CIMA Art in Life puts the spotlight of exquisite weaves from Lucknow and South India
Whatever fashion items, be it a piece of exquisite bijouterie or an elegant outfit, Rakhi Sarkar buys them for posterity and in order to preserve the rare and dwindling indigenous handicrafts and weaves for future generations to behold. This personal outlook towards fashion also pervades her much-anticipated annual exhibition Art in Life, held at CIMA every year, where she relentlessly showcases timeless tales of craftsmanship curated from the remote corners of the country.
“We try to acquaint the lover of art with various textiles, handicrafts and paintings through Art in Life. We take you through the journey of all the rich and diverse art forms existing in various corners of India. That’s why we call our project Art in Life. We didn’t have museums and galleries in those days and art was there in every object we used in our daily lives whether it was our utensils or clothes. Artisans used this medium to express themselves, so, art was everywhere to be seen. We are trying to showcase that through some such beautiful items which we normally do not get to display in a regular art exhibition,” says Rakhi Sarkar, director, CIMA Art Gallery.
This year, Rakhi is showcasing UP in a more comprehensive manner. “We were in Lucknow and the Begum of Mahmudabad helped us to create a nice and unique collection comprising very rare handicrafts and weaving including zardozi, badla work and chikankari. We curated a unique collection of not just fabrics and textiles but also handicrafts that are languishing. Besides Chikankari, there are other rare handworks like Tukde, which are dying a silent death in the absence of patronage,” says Rakhi.
Tukde is a rare handwork done by local artisans and women to create beautiful potlis, coats and capes with strips of fabric stitched in a particular manner. The slants in stitching and various geometrical designs take many months to make turning them into collectible items.
“You can get some machine work done like applique or patchwork, but Tukde isn’t the same and we are displaying some samples of them at the exhibition,” she adds.
Rakhi is curating some very exclusive Lucknawi Chikankari saris with fine work, leheriya work and other different varieties. There will also be very lightweight lehengas in various shades of pastels that are trending among the millennial brides besides a few exclusive and expensive items with Mukaish and Badla works.
“Mahmudabad designs are different with elements of modernism. There is a sari with a leaf design that emulates a fern pattern with badla work done on chiffon. It’s a contemporary motif done with zardozi, mukaish and chikankari works,” she says.
Some museum-quality pieces that they will be showcasing to the public will also be up for sale with the entire proceeds going towards charity in support of the Mahmudabad enterprises.
“There’s always fun part in this exhibition and the quirky elements come through some of the collections we are showcasing including our face masks and saris. All these try to show how craft is progressing and accommodating the new times, or, the other way round. This was my first visit to Lucknow. One always associates Lucknow with the old and ancient but it was wonderful to see the way the city fuses the old with the new with highways and multi-lanes and new architecture done rightly to blend in with the old,” says Pratiti Basu Sarkar, chief administrator CIMA Gallery.
Other regions that Sarkar has concentrated upon this time include Rajasthan’s Udaipur area which offers some exclusive Rajasthani miniature paintings and old antique pieces of furniture and decorative items. There are decorative antique war shields on display and sale just to give an idea of the kind of craftsmanship that went and the beauty and decoration that went into making even a war item.
“From Chattisgarh, we have nice rich textiles and beautiful metal decorative items and sculptures. Also, we got master weavers of South India, from Andhra and Tamil Nadu. There’s an exquisite National Award-winning woven sari by Andhra’s Shilpaguru Vajre in bright purple with elaborate zari and thread work and intricate handwoven mango motifs in the corners,” elaborates Rakhi.
Apart from the classic weaves, a contemporary vibe has been incorporated into the whole curation with some master weavers also experimenting with contemporary designs. “It’s so encouraging to see the master weavers fusing modern designs into a weave. When they fuse modernity with traditions, they follow the grammar and the product is not a random mix of regional weaves that are so ubiquitous. They get their grammar correct and use a lot of logic in their modern expressions,” Rakhi says.
Even when it comes to lifestyle products like minimal furniture, the antique pieces carry a tale of tradition with them. Whether it’s a stunning piece of textured wooden mirror, a table chest, or a marble table with colourful and intricate inlay work, the period items will appeal to you for their rich history and value.
Of course, for those who want to pick up some affordable stuff, there are also well-curated stuff to check out. Every year, CIMA highlight the splendid work done by homegrown small-scale designer labels run by women, who are doing great work but are not widely shown. “This year too we have some uncommon designers working on smaller scales but doing good work. There’s Roshe, Sonam Dubal, Happy Greens, Anuradha Raman and Sunita Shanker. There will also be the works of award-winning kantha designer Mahua Lahiri, whose creations have been shown in foreign museums,” says Rakhi.
When asked about the raging trends this year, Rakhi was quick to point out how Barbie pinks are ruling the fashion charts, courtesy of Barbie. “Pink has been always a favourite colour of mine since my childhood days. Then I gave up wearing pink because it’s too pretty, but now, with Barbie turning it into a rage, it’s time I start wearing a few pieces in pink from my wardrobe. It’s a flattering colour and goes so well on our Indian complexion,” shares Rakhi.
A peek into Rakhis's personal collection will surely give one an idea that she’s more a collector than a trend follower. “My wardrobe might look boring at times since I try to pick up unique woven stuff not so much for its wearability but as an item, I can pass on to a museum later because if we don’t collect samples of weaving now, we lose a part of our history with each passing time. I buy purely as a collector. I also have quite a few Vishwakarma saris introduced way back in mid-1970s helmed by Kamala Devi Chattopadhyay and the entire cottage industry. They were produced by master weavers and I would really like to give them away to some museums in the future. But I also like fun things in vibrant colours picked up from various village haats,” signs off the connoisseur of art.
CIMA Art in Life will be open to all from September 11 to October 20, daily between 11 am and 8 pm
As actress Sandipta Sen dons four exquisite regional weaves for us from the Art in Life collection, we ask her about her own fashion choices for the Pujas.
Puja buys this year: Soft mul saris and kurtis and casual Western wear like jeans, shirts, and dresses.
Puja looks: Ashtami morning means sari and light makeup. Saptami is usually casual, and Nabami might see me in a nice kurti.
Daily fashion choices: Comfortable and casual wear
Accessories: Sleek ones for western wear and chandelier earrings for ethnic wear.
Puja makeup and hair styles: only a light base, kajal and lipstick. I love soft curls, straight hair or a sleek pony tail.
Upcoming projects: Bodhon 2
CREDITS: Model: Sandipta Sen / Pictures: Debarshi Sarkar / Hair and makeup: Abhijit Paul / Styling: Poulami Gupta / Jewellery: Cuprum Quirks, Runway Hit / Blouses: Avijit Das and Poulami Gupta / Corset: Rohan Pariyar