Blowing in the Wind

Professor and Textile art designer Kripal Mathur pays tribute to PB Shelley’s Ode to the West Wind.

Written by Pallavi Chattopadhyay | Updated: January 11, 2015 12:00:48 am
Untitled work from the exhibition. Untitled work from the exhibition.

Thanks to her father, who was an English professor at the National Defence Academy, Pune, Kripal Mathur was introduced to literary masters such as Shakespeare, Milton, Wordsworth and Keats at an early age. One day she stumbled upon PB Shelley’s Ode to the West Wind, in a book given to her by her father. It left a lasting impact on her life, as she points out in the catalogue of her exhibition titled “Zephyrus”, being held at the Alliance Francaise.

“When my father would teach the cadets, we heard the poem. Initially when I read it, I was excited but as I grew up, I understood its real meaning,” says the artist, who teaches at the Textile Design department of the National Institute of Fashion Technology, Delhi. The poem was penned by Shelley in Florence in 1890, on a day when dark clouds and lightening were the only friends of the sky, and the Peterloo Massacre in England had refused to leave the minds of many people reeling under political, economic, social and religious oppression.

The show, which comprises 34 works, shares its title with the Greek god of the West Wind. Employing an old fibre craft of hand felting and using wool fibres is a work whose title borrows lines from Shelley’s poem, “Mid the steep sky’s commotion loose clouds like earth’s decaying leaves one sheds, shook from the boughs of heaven”, where white clouds billowing in the dark sky, spread like smoke.

A huge wall-sized carpet grabs our attention. Made using the technique of hand tufted carpet weaving, the words “If there is darkness now, there will be life and growth tomorrow”, give an insight into the work. As weathered trees look dull and weary in one half of the carpet, they move towards greener patches in the latter half, to signal the transition from winter to spring.

While looking at the poem in an abstract, symbolic manner through her works, Mathur says, “The essence is that if things have reached a dead end, there is still hope. It shows how wind creates different seasons. The poem and my works are metaphoric to our lives — of how there is happiness after sorrow and death. Every line of the poem has been so powerful and in every year of my life, the meaning of the poems makes more sense.”

Using the dying craft and the Persian style of weaving, a Soumak rug, comprising autumnal shades of bright orange, deep red and mustard yellow, gives physical form to the lines “Will take from both a deep, autumnal tone”. The work, If winter comes, can spring be far behind?, employs the hand felting method, giving the perfect ending to the show, with weathered tree-like structures disappearing into a storm of rainbow colours. “My idea was to explore as many techniques and traditional crafts of tie-dye, felt making, embroidery, appliqué and patch-work, tufted carpet weaving and Persian Soumak weaving in innovative ways,” she says.

The exhibition is on display at Alliance Francaise till January 12. Contact: 43500200

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