Priya’s mixed media evolves from a response to the fiber of life, which emerges from nature, from the stem of a plant, from the bark of the tree, from the nest of the birds, from the cocoon, which gives birth to the moth.
From a carefree life when she created woven fabrics in the tapestry technique, she moved on to study the art of the Rafoogars of Najibabad, who through their mastery of the woven pieces reconstructed with invisible stitches the original form which gave it a new life.
The sudden encroachment upon her life, from within, by the uncontrolled growth of the cells was a shock. But she fought it relentlessly and in the process tried to understand the phenomenon.
Priya looked at nature in its multiple forms and found so many expressions emerging from many volatile forms. As Priya says “the mixed media works arise from a thorough symbiosis – they completely inhabit the paper and vanish into the cloth. Through such fusion a new organic morphology is distilled. As I experience it any seeming description of the rhythm of the personal weave is simply another invaluable dynamic enunciation.
We are no more, no less than the mutable skeins in the cosmic warp and weft, infinite, immaculate and imperishable.
Human life is an intimate reflection of the great cycles of nature, universal, perennial and all-pervasive. Of most significance to us here on earth are the sun and moon, their locus and path in the sky, linked to the arrival, change and departure of the seasons – all existence on earth depends upon this eternal, unstoppable and regular movement that is a manifestation of reet, cosmic ‘truth’ or ‘order’. Darkness veils light; light infuses darkness; through increasingly refined gradations of luminosity the gross becomes subtle, opacity becomes transparency; transformations revert to original states and re-manifest, and the reiterations continue. As closely and precisely bound as warp and weft, sun and moon invest each other with meaning, each completing the other’s activity as they illumine the visible sphere. And they occasionally unite through dramatic superimposition, as in the radiant shock of full eclipse when day is transformed into night. It is all one process – expansion and contraction, dispersion and compression, emanation and dissolution.
My current works are based on an ongoing stage of my personal journey. I use the metaphor of visible and invisible rafoogari/traditional darning to invoke sudden, unexpected and violent rupture in our daily experience of the apparently seamless, stable, reliable order of things. My aesthetic is a symbolic affirmation of the place, significance and act of existential ‘repair’ in the corroded fabric of any life, as well as in the life of any corroded fabric. The edges of gashes and fissures in vulnerable cloth have to be continuously aligned, firmly yet delicately gripped, and sealed stitch by careful stitch to prevent further ripping and other damage, and to render the weave and its patterns intact and whole.
My mixed-media works arise from a thorough symbiosis – the natural ‘cloth’ fibres disappear into the paper, the natural ‘paper’ fibres vanish into the cloth; they completely inhabit, host, embed, render, transform and ultimately subsume each other. Through such fusion a new organic morphology is distilled; the particular relationships that constitute duality are re-inscribed as a unity. In metaphorical terms, these works may be read as signifying a collapse of the threshold between the existential and the transcendental. As I experience it, any seeming disruption of the rhythm of the personal weave is simply another invaluable, dynamic enunciation of the universal continuum of reet. We are no more and no less than vital, mutable skeins in the cosmic warp and weft, infinite, immaculate, imperishable.
Priya Ravish Mehra (1961-2018) was a Delhi-based textile artist and weaver, researcher and designer. She graduated in Fine Arts (with a specialization in textiles) from Visva-Bharati University, Santiniketan, and later studied tapestry at West Dean College, Sussex and an advanced tapestry course at the Royal College of Arts, London under the aegis of a Commonwealth Fellowship and Charles Wallace Trust (India) Scholarship. She also received an Asian Cultural Council Grant to study the maintenance and preservation of Indian textiles, especially Kashmir shawls, in public and private collections in the US. Priya’s textile and mixed-media work has been featured as solo exhibitions in British Council, Delhi (1993), Commonwealth Institute, London (1994), Jahangir Art Gallery, Mumbai (1997), Instituto de Artes Plasticas, Mexico (2016), Presence in Absence curated by Tunty Chauhan at Gallery Threshold, Delhi (2017) and ‘India International Center, Delhi (2018). She has also participated in group shows: Taumata Art Gallery, Auckland (1993), Rabindra Bhavan, Delhi (1997), British Council, Delhi (1999), 10th International Triennial of Tapestries, Lodz (2001), ILF Samanvay, India Habitat Centre, Delhi (2016), ‘Evidence Room’, KHOJ, Delhi (2017), C-13, FICA, Delhi (2017), ‘Detritus’, Serendipity Art Festival, Goa (2017), and Pale Sentinels curated by Salima Hashmi at Aicon Gallery, New York (2018), Priya Ravish Mehra at the Kochi Murziris Biennale 2018-2019, Connecting Threads, Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Mumbai 2018. Artist Memorial Wall at India Art Fair 2019 represented by Threshold. Woven Memoirs at Chemould Prescott Road, Mumbai 2019, Bakhiya curated by Tunty Chauhan at Threshold, New Delhi 2020.