Kabir here is not the mystic poet but the weaver saint who spun tales on his loom. His name is embroidered in serene white as is his couplet Jhini jhini bini chadariya. “In this rendition, he expresses the human body and its life cycle metaphorically through the elements and process of weaving,” says Nikheel Aphale. The last few months, the Delhi-based artist has been shuttling between his home and Panipat, where he has been working with professional weavers Kishan, Sriram Pal and Pooja, to design a piece that combines his aesthetics with theirs. It was after numerous discussions that they decided on dedicating their work to Kabir, braiding his composition with natural wool in white.
The 8×3 feet rug on display at the Stainless Steel gallery in Ishwar Nagar, Delhi, sets the tone for the exhibition “Fibre Fables”. An outcome of a collaboration between artists and artisans initiated by Panipat-based Raj Group, the works focus on weaving traditions and giving them a contemporary face. “Through this creative process, each artist has gained an insight into many new techniques that they hope to use in the future as well, while the weavers have begun to look at their daily mechanical chores with a new, respectful gaze, as something that can be used to create a piece of art,” says curator Shailin Smith.
Working with weaves, each of the 11 groups has attempted to create a unique design and art work. If Deepak Nath has put together machine scrap, fibre yarn, wool and the weavers-produced carpets in his installation “The Gobbler”, Sandeep Biswas photographs the weavers at work, and has some of them in films playing on digital screens installed on a charkha.
Durga Kainthola’s works are inspired by the three battles of Panipat. The rugs created on the pitloom, using hand tufting gun and chromojet printing, have the portraits of the three emperors who fought in the three battles of Panipat — Babur, Akbar and Sadhashiv Rao Bhau. “Historically, Panipat is known for the three battles of Panipat and this resurfaced in my mind and thus began a process of relearning the history of the place,” says Kainthola.
The streets and sights of Panipat are brought to Delhi by Nidhi Khurana.
Her 26 x16 foot map of the city has its fauna and landmarks woven and embroidered in the installation A City with a Heart: Panipat… a Journey. “It is a layered depiction that strives to discover the historical past and connects it to the present in the form of an interface. The work attempts to uncover the hidden heart of the city, buried deep beneath the debris of industrialisation,” says Khurana.
The abiding relationship between the weavers and their tools are also explored. While Shivani Aggarwal has sculptural installations based on the tools used in a factory, Vibhu Galhotra has created a sound instrument inspired by the pit and kilim looms. Meanwhile, Sahaya Sharma has given a face to the weavers in sculptural heads in clay that incorporate discarded parts of machinery from the factory — reflecting how their work has become their very identity.