Pramod Kumar KG
Pramod Kumar KG is the co-founder of Eka Archiving Services, India’s first museum advisory firm that provides its services to a range of institutions/collectors and collections. He has worked with a vast range of artefacts that vary greatly in their materiality, besides helping with nuanced aspects of cultural and heritage management. Pramod is also the founder-director of the Anokhi Museum of Hand Printing at Jaipur. He has curated shows extensively across India and internationally.
Pramod Kumar KG is the curator for Craft at Serendipity Arts Festival, 2019.
The Art Issue: What is your exhibition 'Weftscapes' about and what can the audience expect?
Pramod Kumar KG: Weftscapes will display 20 distinct robes, dyed in natural indigo and hand woven as ready to wear artworks through the traditional jamdani technique. The focal point of this exhibition had to be the craft of jamdani, but not necessarily in its historical context. The approach towards visualising this exhibition was to view it as a contemporary craft show. What we hope audiences will see in this show is continuity of traditional craft practices with modern sensibilities. What could the possibilities of Jamdani be in the 21st century if the technique became sacrosanct and not the materials?
The artworks chosen for this exhibition, not only display an array of materials and textures but also varied influences that have guided the artist. Bappaditya Biswas, the artist, sought inspiration from Bengal’s colonial past particularly the contentious history of indigo, to the skills of weavers who had to adapt to a new post-partition India, as well as the idea of limitless space, the sky and the ocean. The overall narrative for this exhibition brings together several disparate stories.
AI: Could you comment on the curatorial and selection process of the artists to be exhibited?
PKG: There is no straightforward process for selection or criteria where you can tick all the boxes and say this is it. I think the only factor that was considered for the Craft discipline was that is there a story that hasn’t been told before or perhaps a story that is being re-told in a completely new and different way.
The artist whose work was chosen for the craft exhibition was someone who was pushing the idea of traditional craft beyond its historical limitations. Bappaditya Biswas, or Bappa as he is known to most people, has been working closely with artisans in Bengal over the years to develop and sustain traditional handloom techniques; his work with jamdani is particularly significant.
What Bappa has tried to do with the jamdani indigo robes, to be displayed at Adil Shah Palace in Goa, is that he tries to break away from the confines of what many of us understand as mainstream definitions of traditional handicrafts. Although Bappa uses traditional processes of making natural indigo dyes and handwoven jamdani techniques, his experimentation with non-conventional materials like shell sequins, ghungroos, copper wires, French bullion as extra wefts, is an attempt to demonstrate how traditional craft practices can be transformed to create something that is contemporary. The show thus only exhibits the work of one artist.
AI: How does your jamdani project for this year's Craft discipline fit into SAF’s broader theme of promoting inclusivity in the arts and diluting regional borders?
PKG: SAF’s efforts to bring together different disciplines within the arts onto a common a platform is highly commendable, and much needed today when the sharp demarcations within different artforms is beginning to fade away. This amalgamation of different artforms under one roof is something that runs parallel to what Weftscapes is striving to do. With this exhibition we are attempting to realise the multiple stories that are coming together through these artworks. These jamdani robes are not only a testament to the evolution of indigo dyeing and jamdani weaving within the sub-continent but they also speak of the durability and transformation of craft forms in the 21st century.
In the case of jamdani in India, there are several traditions of woven textiles with discontinuous weft techniques that mirror the jamdani technique under several regional names. Jamdani, in Bengal particularly has survived in several iterations of excellence with some of its most significant contemporary manifestations seen in this exhibition. Even though this craft is distinct to Eastern India, its story holds true for other art forms throughout India vying to stay relevant. This show also questions the notion of how 20th century political borders have affected the ownership of craft patrimony that are now deemed of Bangladesh by UNESCO certification but are yet significant in quality and production in India. Do we need newer and more nuanced ways of maintaining inclusivity today?
AI: What does the title 'Weftscapes' signify?
PKG: The title ‘Weftscapes’ succinctly expresses the core idea of this exhibition, which focuses on the actual technical process of jamdani weaving as well as the end product on display. It explores the idea of something rooted in history making its way across newer artistic horizons and landscapes. Hence the insertion of an extended weft or a discontinuous weft that creates the Jamdani pattern gives its name to the show.
AI: What is the focus of the exhibition?
PKG: What we have strived to focus on in this exhibition is to explain, the extra weft technique of this complex weaving process. Jamdani involves the use of a supplementary weft technique and the displayed robes showcase various possibilities of introducing different yarns, materials and constructions into the weave. The exhibition designers have cleverly tried to demonstrate what the extra weft is, through a tactile display section and an installation.
Exhibitions across the world have a strict ‘Please do not touch’ policy regarding objects on display in order to preserve and protect them, however in the case of textiles, particularly contemporary textiles, that can often be counterintuitive. For that reason, we have a tactile section within the exhibition where swatches, yarns and raw materials will be on display for everyone to touch and feel.
The exhibition Weftscapes: Jamdani Across New Horizons will be on view at The Adil Shah Palace, Panjim from 15th-22nd December, 2019
This interview was conducted as a part of The Art Issue's media collaboration with the Serendipity Arts Festival, 2019