The art world has long been in a state of flux – of accelerated flux, one might say. Neat and clear definitions have become irrelevant. What is art? is a question to which no one expects a definite answer. Boundaries continually shift between one genre and another, between art and craft, between art and non-art. One could lament, as many do no doubt, that this is a state of crisis. But true artists always find ways to cope with crises, and discover or create new opportunities to continue with their aesthetic explorations.
We at Jamini have always tried to highlight the significant ways in which the aesthetic impulse has been manifesting itself in an art world characterised by an ever-changing climate and topography. Our new series was launched in 2014 with an issue devoted to crafts. It was followed by one on the city- reflecting an abiding concern with the problems of the impossible conurbation in which this journal has its home. The present issue focuses on aspects of textile art at the hands of diverse practitioners in different parts of the globe.
If readers receive the impression that we have given the journal over to a self-indulgent examination of marginal aesthetic phenomena, it will be quite erroneous. For the mainstream needs to be redefined continuously through challenging encounters with the noncanonical and out-of-the-way art forms. What the patient reader will come to realise, we hope, is that there are seemingly marginal aesthetic forms that deserve a place in the mainstream of art history.
But what is the nature and scope of the subject we are focusing on? What is textile art? As the issue was being planned we realised that we did not need a rigid definition. In fact, a rough and ready notion proved to be more helpful as we plunged into the task of putting together this melange of essays and interviews, somewhat in the spirit of bricoleurs.
We have been lucky in having Ms Salima Hashmi as guest editor for this issue. As our readers must be aware, she comes with impeccable credentials as a scholar, art critic and social activist. She possesses an eclectic and refined taste and, as one would expect, brings together essays that will provoke critical lucubration and broaden our perspective on art and the reality-at once fascinating and disturbing-from which it springs. In a sense the essays in this issue add up to a deconstruction of the picture of art that has been dominant since the Renaissance. Art, we have -or had -come to believe, is created on a surface provided either by a wall or ceiling, or glass or a piece of canvas or wood. Easel paintings on canvas came to be the most conspicuous form of art, commissioned and collected by the nobility, the bourgeoisie, and lately tycoons interested in making unconventional investments. The canvas becomes host to a pictorial image, but is itself invisible – or nearly invisible. If the artist turns things upside down and foregrounds the canvas, takes it apart, creates new configurations with the material, and, in short, makes the canvas itself an art object, we will have textile art. This is of course a hypothetical example, fancifully made up; but serious artists are playing around -yes, there is a refreshing ludic dimension to the activity-with textiles, and producing new kinds of art.
‘Textile’ and ‘text’ share the same etymology; they come from the Latin ‘textum’, ‘to weave’. And ‘fabric’, another word that features in the discussions included here, from the Latin ‘faber’, ‘a worker in hard materials’. Writers and artists are, in a sense, all weavers and workers, and what we produce helps to make us feel at home in an increasingly difficult environment. In her introduction, Ms Hashmi rightly points out the role of gender in relation to textiles and fabrics, for weaving and embroidering have traditionally been assigned to women. By using textiles and fabrics to create startling new art objects, women artists are breaking out of the traditional mould and attaining both aesthetic and social empowerment. Men and women artists stand shoulder to shoulder in this issue and weave new aesthetic patterns. The traditional background is not neglected either; and such exquisite products of our traditional industries as the muslin, Australian and Japanese textiles, and the lovely and colourful cottons from the handlooms in our hills, are showcased. We have not neglected to cover a few of the significant recent exhibitions at home and abroad. The overall impact of this issue, we hope, will be to bring art and life closer.
The art world has long been in a state of flux – of accelerated flux, one might say. Neat and clear definitions have become irrelevant. What is art? is a question to which no one expects a definite answer. Boundaries continually shift between one genre and another, between art and craft, between art and non-art.…