GOLD: THE ART OF ZARI
For millenia, the use of precious metals in art has distinguished civilisations. Among the rarest objects found from past cultures, have been those which use gold and silver, handcrafted to sophisticated levels. In these, textiles have been seen to form an essential aspect of adornment akin to jewellery. This fascination for pure materials such as gold continues till today, their eternal allure making them coveted by the most renowned contemporary artists, designers, master-craftspeople and couturiers. Their value is evoked in furniture and exquisite crockery, in objects of art and handmade timepieces. In international fashion - in recent decades - gold has been celebrated by designers such as Miuccia Prada and Issey Miyake. And in India, its use in textile-techniques such as embroidery, weaving and printing provides an exciting creative opportunity for master craftspeople, artisans and designers towards innovation. In textiles, one of the ways in which the idea of using precious metals is expressed in India is through metallic yarn.
Known as zari in many parts of the country and the Indian subcontinent, its use traditionally has been attributed to sacred symbolism as well as to hand-woven fabrics made for the royalty, aristocracy and the mercantile elite. The word is derived from the Persian word ‘zari’, literally meaning ‘gold’. In other parts of the world - from Europe to China and Japan - such metallic yarn has also informed the artistry of handmade textiles. The weaving of brocades from the Renaissance period in Europe, Persian velvets, gossamer fabrics for Kimonos and velvets for Mughal tents - have all shown ingenious ways in which yarn made with silver and gold can be used creatively. This exhibition is an ode to the highly specialised technique of making zari. It presents vintage textiles sourced from private collections as well as contemporary work by Kolkata-based textile designers Swati and Sunaina. In the process, it attempts to showcase the technique of making zari, and facets of its myriad artistic expressions.