Cloth, paper, scissors
The late artist Priya Ravish Mehra's works stitch together art and reality
Bruised bodies and ripped fabrics need Band-Aids. And, no one knew this better than the late artist Priya Ravish Mehra. A textile artist and researcher, Mehra passed away last year due to cancer. Her life's work included elevating rafoogiri into an art form, along with the rafoogars of Najibabad, her hometown in UP. One such work was seen by gallerist Shireen Gandhy in 2017.
"I'd heard about her quite late in her own life. Artist Archana Hande had told me and said, 'You must see Priya's work.' When I was at Khoj [in Delhi] for its 20th anniversary, I'd seen this really beautiful structure: a bourgeois, octagonal stand, on which were these framed rafoo works." She responded so deeply to the work that Gandhy cornered Mehra on the terrace. "She started talking to me about the work, about rafoogiri, where it happens, where she comes from, the whole story and also connecting the cancer part. I was absolutely emotional, hearing how she uses rafoogiri as [a way of] healing. I just had an outpouring of tears, but she was laughing. That was her way of responding [to the situation]. Because she'd touched people and she knew how she touched them. So, there was a wonderful connection."
Priya Ravish Mehra
Within the year, Mehra died, and Gandhy says, "I was so remorseful that I didn't do the exhibition in her lifetime." So, Gandhy is making amends, doing her own rafoo, with Woven Memoirs, an exhibition of Mehra's works at Chemould Prescott Road next month. The tapestries combine natural fibres, plants, threads, leaves, rejected weaves and paper pulp, offering a metaphor for life itself: whether it's a broken heart or a battered soul, it's best to pick up the pieces and sew them together.
When: September 6 – October 1; 11 AM – 7 PM
Where: Chemould Prescott Road, 3rd floor, Queens Mansion, G Talwatkar Marg, Fort
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