Embroidered tapestries show the genius of Indian artists, Manu and Madhvi Parekh, at the Rodin museum, says Uma Nair
The Rodin Museum has opened its doors to the brilliance of the compositional charisma of contemporary Indian art created in the form of embroidered tapestries. Manu Parekh’s Benares vignette and Madhvi Parekh’s tribal folk motifs created a stunning backdrop as Christian Dior models showed off in dulcet monochromatic haute couture. And the whole scene was choreographed by creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri.
Maria, Manu and Madhvi
Since Chiuri took the helm at Dior, she has been hailed for the feminist stances in her work, always placing art at the center of her message. Last week at the Musée Rodin Paris, during the Dior Haute Couture Spring/Summer 2022 show, the work of artists Madhvi and Manu Parekh was in the spotlight, with an incredible decor of their translated tapestries.
Among these magnificent monumental tapestries, two works that stood out were Benares by Manu Parekh which showed a setting sun in all its glory and the work Two Heads of a Black Queen by Madhvi in 2006 presented during his solo exhibition at Vadehras in 2007 .
Benares is older than history
Manu’s Bénarès is a heady delight. It embraces the silhouette of temples, lights and the fervor of daily puja. Created in warm tones of buttercup yellow and shades of smoky russet, this work is a quilt of deep rhythms and resonances that invites the human gaze and celebrates spiritual fervor. Manu’s Benares carries an echo that is both ecological and elegiac because it combines the harmony of prayer with the paradox of mortality in a world where ritual and relic come together. This work has many shades of not just sandhya but twilight alchemy as you gaze into the mirror of the setting sun. The coin marks the truth of the words of English author and literature writer Mark Twain, who was captivated by the legend and sanctity of the city and wrote: ‘Banaras is older than history, older than tradition, older than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together”.
The two heads of a black queen of Madhvi
Madhvi’s Two Heads of a Black Queen is owned by collector and connoisseur Tripat Kalra who bought it from Vadehras in 2007 while they were holding it solo. Tripat says she bought the work because it had its own identity and seemed to go beyond dialogues and dimensions as it contained both past and present.
Color and outline are the two most dominant aspects of his work. In an interview years ago, she said, “As a child, from rural Gujarat, I saw nature’s brightest lights. When I came home from school, the setting sun ignited the whole world and bathed it in shimmering golden light. These colors have become an integral part of me and they come quite naturally to me. The dotted lines in my paintings give the impression of embroidery stitches that I made as a child.
The position of the two faces on a sky blue background, dotted with tiny elements, reflects that she had an instinctive sense of design and that shapes come naturally to her. It reminds us of the old folk art practices of decorative floor patterns (rangoli) and wall decorations on huts. It represents the beauty and antiquity of traditional artistic practices in the humble villages and homes of Gujarat.
For a week, the monumental embroideries not only served as the backdrop for the fashion show, but also rubbed shoulders with Rodin’s sculptures, creating a synergy of rare intensity. Imagining Rodin’s nymphs and demigods encountering Indian temples, deities and personifications symbolized in embroidery is an experience of sublime proportions. In a strange and curious way, we also witness the exploration of the masculine/feminine dichotomy and their inherent characteristics of complementarity. At the Rodin Museum, Maria Gracias affirmed the principles of rare know-how and know-how. In the mix of materials, metaphors and color, the technique of the embroiderers of the Chanakya School of Craft in Mumbai is given pride of place and honor.
These two works bring a whole spiritual dimension and an artistic immersion in the viewer’s imagination, where the old-fashioned, the curious and the familiar rub shoulders with the real, the imaginary and the surreal.