A Gandhian soul in art
Hyderabad: Shelly Jyoti solo show Salt: The Great March II (Recontextualizing Ajrakh Textile Tradition on Khadi in contemporary art and craft) displays art that seeks to fuse contemporary art practices on khadi textile material with medieval block printing technique of Ajrakh from Kutch. This is the third in a series of shows which explore the humble salt as a symbol of non-violence and self discovery with the background aptly permeated by a poetry film interrogating Gandhian ideals. The artist explicitly states “through these works I explore the possibilities of establishing alternative societies where Gandhian ideals of swadharma and sarvodya could provide hope for individuals and raise them to the higher moral and ethical plane.” This is especially evinced in the sculptural Charkhas and The Threads of Swaraj.
A poignant installation, Allow me to Grow without Fear, displays a little girl’s dress in the Ajrakhi tradition: exploring, expressing the pervasive and incessant fear in a girl child towards sexual violence and violation. Timeless silhouettes: Blouses, has sequence of seven, dissimilar blouse silhouettes in contemporary designs. Through this the artist seeks to interrogate a living tradition that perhaps has its origins in the Harrapan civilisation and effulgence in medieval fabric.
“I explore and construct selected period histories along with related socio-economic and political inquiries regarding issues of representation and identity” asserts Jyoti.
The Rann of Salt and Dhaulavira, (the second largest Harrapan Site), enduring images of the bare magnificence of Kutch find an echo in her work assisted as they are by rooted Khatri artisans of Ajrakh. This is coupled with treating Ajrakhi symbols as the grammar of an artistic oeuvre which engages with modernity, ideology, history and commerce. The effort to root contemporary art practice in a living tradition that resonates current and inherited concepts is refreshing.
For the artist, khadi fabric serves as a canvas while Ajrakh printing and dyeing has become her tools or brushes of expression.