Bengaluru through fabrics: How stories and culture are woven together

The Urban Fabric exhibition at the Karnataka Chitra Kala Parishad is open until March 25.
Urban Fabric Exhibition
Urban Fabric Exhibition

Inside the sprawling campus of the Karnataka Chitra Kala Parishad campus in Bengaluru, a burst of colour greets visitors. Fabrics of myriad textures, hues and styles are on display, each different from the other. One can find the women of the Siddi community teaching others how to make quilts out of scrap clothes, with heirlooms and quilts that could not be sold due to the pandemic draped behind them.  

This exhibition, called Urban Fabric, is curated by Suresh Jayaram and his pupil Sagar Shastri, as part of the India Foundation of the Arts’s ‘Project 560’. The project aims to document aspects of Bengaluru such as its cultural and natural history, civic issues, public transport etc. Jayaram and Shastri chose to reflect this through fabric and textiles. Bengaluru is known for its fabric industry and through this show, the duo wanted to showcase the skills of those who contribute to this diverse art form. Over a year and a half, Jayaram focused his attention on contacting weavers, tailors and artists based in the city to put the vivid pieces on display. The Urban Fabric exhibition will run until March 25. A weaving workshop will also be open until March 19, wherein artists, students and alumni of Chitra Kala Parishad can learn the skill from the Siddi women.  

1Shanthiroad Studio and Gallery, run by Suresh Jayaram, was among the awardees of a grant distributed by India Foundation of the Arts under ‘Project 560’. 1Shanthiroad has been known to display works that celebrate Bengaluru, its people and their narratives.

Artwork by artist Renuka Rajiv that she made during the pandemic

“I am a mere conductor who has made sure all the passengers are on the bus,” quipped Jayaram as a visitor asked him whether his own works are on display. “We wish to look beyond the fabric and weave a narrative that involves artists who have used textiles in different forms to speak about tradition, change, and conflict,” he added.

“Over the past year-and-a-half, I visited the artists at their places, dedicated time for one-on-one interviews and tried my best to bring their stories out. Although they are of a different kind, they are all tied by a common thread; in essence, it's all textile, a piece of cloth, a thread. And as a curator it was my job to juxtapose the two,” explained Jayaram as he pointed towards works made using natural dyes and threads, machine-made weaves and traditional practices. Though the styles and textures of the artworks are different, they complement each other as they hang side-by-side.

Jayaram also pointed out that the show is also metaphorical, in that it displays how the fabric of Bengaluru has been woven by people from all walks of life.

The astounding works of queer artists Renuka Rajiv, Smitha Cariappa and SG Vasudev are on display as well. Renuka, who took up embroidery during the COVID-19-induced lockdown, was more experimental with her pieces. Meanwhile, Vasudev worked with a weaver to convert his paintings into tapestries.

Among all the pieces on display is also a map of Bengaluru’s Yelahanka, with some parts covered in fabric. Describing the piece, Sagar Shastri said, “A young artist spoke with people and asked them about their experiences of sexual harassment in Yelahanka region of the city. She used fabric to highlight the places where women had encountered the unpleasant experiences on the map of the region.”

The artwork on display at the Urban Fabric exhibition

Another piece that highlights a social cause is by Shwetha BV, which voiced her opinions on social expectations that women must shoulder. She printed a motif of burqa-clad women on a plain black cloth, adding layers of fabrics used in making burqas.

“Shwetha’s works are viewed with two perspectives; the flipside also has a story to say,” Sagar pointed out, adding that her works are comments on social structures such as religion and the patriarchy.

Shwetha BV's work titled The Red Curve that's displayed at exhibition among other works

When asked about what challenges they encountered in curating the Urban Fabric exhibition, Jayaram said, “The difficulty was not in getting the artwork together but in making a statement without knowing the space. The Goethe Institut-Max Mueller Bhavan and the Karnataka Chitrakala Parishad had graciously helped us, but arranging the artwork over the past two months was challenging.”

Related Stories

No stories found.
The News Minute