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A whimsical search for solace

In the last few years, textile and fibre art has been on the rise, with a large number of artists experimenting with the medium in various forms. The contemporary art space is brimming with possibilities with artists combining textiles with traditional techniques such as weaving, embroidery, stitching and crocheting, to create mixed media works and installations. One such exhibition by a young upcoming artist Rakhi Shenoy, held recently in Bengaluru, displayed a suite of mixed media works involving hand embroidery on canvas.

The series titled, ‘Presence of Absence’ explores the dreamlike comfort of “imaginary elsewheres”, encouraging viewers to question their perception of reality, and “embrace the allure of imaginary realms,” according to the artist. The visuals juxtapose everyday objects amidst fantastical mindscapes, bordering on whimsy and are situated against quaint backdrops. The extensive texturing, detailing and precision of the pictorial elements, play with notions of memory and space to produce an altered sense of reality.

From flowers, vases, floating fish, teabags, hot air balloons, a small radio and even a sewing machine, a variety of objects and motifs, personal and comforting for the artist, are juxtaposed to narrate her stories, visions and memories from childhood, and home and travel. Objects and places fade away in the distance, as they recede from memory, and their presence is felt only in their faint outlines and indistinctness.

In the artworks, a world filled with fantasy, dreams and materiality collide in new imaginaries of existence, creating interludes that sparkle with beauty. It transports the viewer to a wondrous land, which perhaps exists only in imagination, but offers a sight of solace and relief. The sensitivity is evident in the intricate compositions, while the use of colour and embroidery detailing, effectively merge Rakhi’s art and design sensibilities.

Rakhi’s process is rather elaborate, beginning with traditional drawing and painting, which is then scanned and combined with digital drawings to create digital collages. It is then printed on archival canvas and then the work goes through another layer of paint, followed by hand embroidery and sometimes additional touches of drawing with pastels.

The multiple layers of drawing, painting, printing and embroidery add a rich texture and dimension to the work, going beyond the two-dimensionality of the canvas. In fact, in her new works, the media and material go through further experimentation, fragmenting linearity and topography. Found objects are added while the canvas is supplemented with other materials to alter its external parameters.

Hailing from an illustrious family of artists, Rakhi has found a way to express her individuality and meld it with her background in textile design. This combination of traditional painting techniques and digital art, along with embroidery, lends her works a contemporary aesthetic.

The author is a Bengaluru-based art consultant, curator and writer. She blogs at Art Scene India and can be reached at artsceneinfo@gmail.com

Dab Hand is your fortnightly art world low-down.

(Published 28 October 2023, 19:26 IST)

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