Kali in Paris: When the works of the artists of Delhi Manu and Madhvi Parekh have found a new breath at a high couture parade in the French capital

In 1971, when artist Madhvi Parekh painted an image of Kali armed with weapons against a backdrop of intricate folk iconography, the idea that he was going to a fashion ramp in the fashion capital of the world, Paris , was inconceivable. Yet five decades later, the work, World of Kali, turned out to be a topic of conversation in the French capital during the high-sewing spring-summer 2022 presentation of global luxury brand Christian Dior Last week.

Presented alongside her husband, the work of artist Manu Parekh, an embroidered version of World of Kali was part of the fashion giant’s decor at the Rodin Museum in Paris. Carefully embroidered tapestries based on the works of modernist artists have attracted as much attention as the monotonous outfits presented by the Italian fashion designer. Maria Grazia Chiuriartistic director at Dior.

Madhvi Parekh and Karishma Swali for Chanakya, Power of Shakti, 2021-22, Multidisciplinary Art Hand Embroidered On Organic Canvas, H138 “XL142”

“The response was overwhelming,” says Manu, 82. Unable to attend the show in person due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the artists viewed it live from their home in Delhi. “It was fabulously designed and put together. The project mixes art, crafts and design and is a celebration of our heritage, which we should celebrate more often, “he says.

Manu Parekh and Karishma Swali for Chanakya, Evening in Benares, 2021-22, Multidisciplinary Art Embroidered on Organic Canvas, H138 “XL284”

The process started last year, when Karishma Swali, creative director of the Chanakya embroidery house based in Mumbai and co-founder of Chanakya School of Craft, came to see the couple with the proposal to embroider their works on tapestries. “I started collecting the works of the Parekh many years ago and I found an incredible synergy between modernism and traditional indian patterns… the collective vision of this collaboration was to create an immersive experience that celebrates the culture of craftsmanship and the interconnection between us, “says Swali, who took the initiative to reach out to the fashion mark and embark them. On a subsequent trip to Europe, she and Chiuri shortlisted 12 works by Madhvi and 10 by Manu to be translated into tapestries, which make up the monumental exhibition – it included Madhvi’s work. paintings Impregnated with folkloric and rural traditions and spiritual abstracts of Manu and an interpretation of its famous Benares series. “We were watching works that, in our opinion, completed the male and feminine energies that meet in perfect harmony,” says Swali.

Manu Parekh and Karishma Swali for Chanakya, Chanting Sutra, 2021-22, Multidisciplinary Art Embroidered on Organic Canvas, H138 “XL148”

The transition to the fabric took place at the Chanakya workshop in Mumbai, under the narrow supervision of Swali and remotely by the couple of artists. Although the natural tones of paint and thread differ, every detail was carefully considered and it took more than 320 artisans over six months to embroider 340 m² (3,600 square feet) of handwork. Most tapestries have six to seven layers to create depth and several traditional techniques Also used, changes in nodes and zardozi at sfumato, couching, stem point and penpoint. “We have followed a very instinctive process, leaving the shape and lines of the artists’ paintings show the way. The objective was to maintain the purity and power of the works and the liveliness of the lines, and, therefore, we used organic cotton, ecologically shades, fine silk and cotton and linen threads, ” explains Swali.

Madhvi Parekh and Karishma Swali for Chanakya, Flying Goddess, 2021-22, Multidisciplinary Art Hand Embroidered On Organic Canvas, H138 “XL198”

Manu’s experience as a designer at the Handloom Board for more than two decades, in the 1960s and 1970s, also allowed a transparent ideation of the visual narrative. “During this period, I traveled through India, deep down from the villages of Odisha, Bihar and Rajasthan, to create new textile patterns with rural craftsmen. My goal was to promote indigenous materials and design. The goal here is also to recognize and appreciate our job, “says Manu.

Karishma Swali (Director of Creation, Chanakya), Maria Grazia Chiuri (Director of Creation at Dior) and Pietro Beccari (CEO at Dior)

Even as Swali presents the Parisian public the philosophy, the symbolism and techniques of the works exhibited at the Rodin Museum until January 30, returning to Mumbai, at the workshop, artisans embroide more tapestries based on the works of artists , scheduled to travel the world later this year. For her part, Madhvi is happy to have brought a bit of India to the West. “Durga and Kali represent the strength of women and my work has been an incarnation of this female energy. He represents our religion and our culture. Although we would have liked to attend the fashion parade in Paris, we also appreciated attend online,” says Madhvi, 80.

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