Paula Sengupta uses embroidery techniques like nakshi kantha to pay tribute to the soldiers of the 1971 Indo-Pak war
An embroidered piece of cloth,meticulously framed in glass and pinned on a board,articulates the compelling story of the 1971 Indo-Pak war. A soldiers boot in the corner,flowers set on top,and words flowing through them it is as if the artist is narrating a story. Paula Senguptas artwork captures a series of personal narratives of individuals and the trauma of dislocation during the war,including her own familys,through a medium associated with the nameless,faceless textile artists embroidery.
Titled Lv,Pony,this is Kolkata-based mixed media artist and printmakers new series of work. Comprising serigraphs and acrylics,the exhibition opened at Gallery Espace recently. The series,priced between Rs 20,000 and Rs 6 lakh,is inspired by the artists retired brigadier friend,who was nicknamed Pony by his army colleagues and used to sign off letters with Lv,Pony. He was a second lieutenant during the 1971 war and sent me several stories about those days. I have used some of them here, says Sengupta,who visited Bangladesh for her research.
The works are not merely pictures of conflict,but a collection of personal narratives. The exhibition isnt only about Indian Army officers but also ordinary civilians,who were affected by the war, says Sengupta. She points to a museum of memory, which comprises artwork,in which objects like pillows,army uniforms and beddings are worked upon with intricate embroidery. The main embroidery form used here is called nakshi kantha and is common in Bangladesh and eastern India, she adds.
Sengupta has also used colonial cross-stitch material,fine muslin and jamdani from Dhaka,which has been juxtaposed with colonial forms of embroidery like stem stitch,chain stitch,and buttonhole stitch. Women were left behind by war and took to embroidery,both to bide their time and retain their sanity. Thus,they contributed to the war by sewing uniforms and blankets for the soldiers, she says.
Lv,Pony also has a set of six embroidered pillows sitting pinned to its frame. I have used the pillow because it is an essential Bengali cultural object,which signifies a common culture between Bangladesh,the nation that was created after the 1971 war,and Bengal, she says.
The exhibition is on till August 20 at Gallery Espace,New Friends Colony. Contact 26326268