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May 08, 2019

Artist And The Environment: Santha K.V.

Text by Shraddha Jahagirdar-Saxena

The self-taught textile artist and educator’s intricately woven tapestries are a reflection of her connection to the environment and its temperamental nature

The self-taught textile artist and educator in contemporary weaving is the co-founder of Tasara, a centre for creative weaving. The 65-year-old artist who lives and works in Beypore, Kerala, draws inspiration from the region where she lives. Her intricately woven tapestries are a reflection of her connection to the environment and its temperamental nature, and she lends a contemporary aesthetic to the traditional art form.

On her affinity for nature
I was born into an agrarian joint family in Kozhikode, Kerala; we worked and lived in great harmony with our surroundings. Seasonal variations were strikingly visible to our family because farming is, quite literally, a down-to-earth activity — very close to nature. And every related activity is attached to a ceremonious ritual that pertains to a specific season. Our father was quite progressive in his thoughts and a great lover of the natural world, and he instilled the same philosophy in all of us at a very early age. The energy, variety, and endless creativity of nature has always inspired and excited me.

On Tasara, the weaving centre
When my elder brothers, V. Vasudevan and Balakrishnan K.V., founded Tasara, I, too, became a part of it. My brother Balakrishnan K.V., an internationally known tapestry artist, is my guide and mentor as well as my inspiration at all times. Together, we have created a new style of weaving which is quite different from the conventional Western tapestry technique known as Gobelins.

Our flagship warp-painted Tasara tapestries are like woven paintings. But, I was more interested in and focused on introducing three-dimensional textures into my tapestries in order to create something that is totally different even as I continued to use the existing looms, techniques and materials. The modernist idioms and elements often seen in my weaves are the results of my desire to uniquely combine the traditional with the new-age.

In 1989, Tasara organised the first international workshop in hand weaving with the purpose of getting painters from around the world to collaborate with our traditional weavers, thus bringing not only a contemporary aesthetic, but expressions, and combinations into weaving as well. As a participant, I was able to broaden my horizons as a textile artist. Over the years, Tasara has become a preferred destination for creative people from all over the world to work in. My extensive travels in many countries have also helped to enrich my artistic perspectives.

On her installation Tree of Life
The Tree of Life (2018) symbolises eternity, like the banyan tree that sends down new hanging roots to the earth, to ensure the continuity of the life of the old tree. A tree is an abode for many species, but unfortunately, humans are only interested in how it might contribute to our lives and comforts. I was trying to give something back to the trees; so I embellished this one with colourful decorations, making the plant itself a tapestry of life.

Read part 2 with Arunkumar H.G. here.

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