Friday, December 14, 2012

Wearable Art

By Dr. Alka Raghuvanshi

Miniature paintings designed as necklaces by Alka Raghuvanshi

It is my conviction that art can and should permeate every aspect of life. With this thought, I chose artists whose works I felt would make exceptional ‘wearable art’ for what eventually came to be known as Ehsaas

My lure and deep romance for the ultimate unstitched cloth – the saree – has been academically riveting as it has been aesthetically gratifying and emotionally rejuvenating. The other area of deep interest and aesthetic gratification is art. For nearly three decades, I have been writing about, curating and creating art. I have seen and experienced vast number of works over the years and there have been times when I wished I could wrap myself in not only my paintings but those of some fellow painters as well!

Handbag from Jatra series by artist Shridhar Iyer

One evening, when I was in the perpetual quandary of which saree to wear, Ehsaas was born. A cross-disciplinary project that would specially juxtapose about 50 paintings of some of the most respected contemporary artists to create works of “wearable art” by transposing them on to hand woven fabric.

-Dr. Alka Raghuvanshi - Curator of  Ehsaas 

I rejected the idea of specially creating paintings for the project to completely mitigate the notion of pre-conception. Instead, I decided to select from the existing repertoire going with the works of Prof Niren Sen Gupta, Shridhar Iyer, Sanjay Bhattacharya, Manisha Gawade and yours truly – after all, I also wanted to have my paintings as part of the series!

From L to R: Painters for the Ehsaas collection- Shridhar Iyer, Niren Sengupta and Manisha Gawade 

We all dug through our works to arrive at the perfect paintings that would lend themselves to what I had in mind and the core of the Ehsaas series are stunning and dramatic limited edition sarees and rare and spectacular accessories including stoles, ties and handbags.

Bag and stole created from 2 paintings by Manisha Gawade       Bag and stole created from a painting by Alka Raghuvanshi

Using digital transference as the most favourable process to preserve the delicate colours, layers and nuances of the paintings, photograph sizing and interplay of designs were carefully looked into. God is in details. Fabric selection was of paramount importance. I settled for the tussar fabric after many hits and errors on several types of silks. The selection was on the basis of colours, textures of the paintings, sizes of the works, and the eventual look and feel of the saree.

Stole modelled by Kathak maestro Birju Maharaj

I went into the finer nuances of motif placement in terms of inches and centimeters, to ensure that when draped, they would appear in specific areas. With true colours and proportionate sizes, motifs were made smaller lest the grains split and instead of mirror images, designs were suitably extended where works were too small.  In a couple of sarees, as many as six small works from a series formed part of one saree. We rejected the idea of further embellishing these art sarees as they would be like gilding the lily! We settled for understated facings to subtly frame the works. An array of options had to be tried so that the series would look like a proper collection.

Kuchipudi Dancer Rashmi Vaidialingam and Kathak Dancer Shovna Narayan
 wearing sarees created from Niren Sengupta's works

Then came the most difficult job: the wait for the final results. And when they came, we were truly amazed and elated at what we had accomplished!

 Kuchipudi Dancer Kaushalya Reddy  in Sanjay Bhattacharya's transposition

For me as the artist, Ehsaas has been one of the most satisfying and special experiences. It has taken a whole year to come to fruition but every step has taught me something new. To see your own creation is heady. But to see a dream come true is an experience incomparable. The emotional and intellectual high will linger in my memories for a long, long time… 

L - R: Chellist Saskia Rao de Haas, Kathak Dancer Sharmistha Mukherjee and Artist Manisha Gawade

Ehsaas – the exhibition is on show from November 23rd to December 31st 2012 at Ekaya D 7 Defence Colony, New Delhi. 

Dr. Alka Raghuvanshi is an artist, curator and writer. She is among the few authorities on the arts, who traverses folk and classical arts, performing and plastic arts, crafts and aesthetics with ease and is known for her crusading spirit for the arts.


  1. These creations are absolutely fabulous. What lovely creations. I wish I could be there for the exhibition in Delhi. Will there be one in Mumbai?
    All the best.


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