Credit: Swapnaa Tamhane, Mobile Palace (detail), 2019-2021, natural dyes and applique on cotton.
Swapnaa Tamhane: No Surface is Neutral
Swapnaa Tamhane’s work challenges the colonial hierarchical separation between art, craft, and design in India. Her artworks include sweeping textile installations where space is transformed by fabric, colour, and light, and works on handmade paper.
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They harness different moments in India’s artisanal histories related to decolonization and freedom as a way to reflect on the presence and relevance of these themes today.
Textiles in India carry the weight of imperial, colonial, and nationalist histories in their fibres. Cotton has shaped India’s ancient trade, provided the impetus for India’s colonization, and was a powerful political symbol leading to liberation from colonial rule. In this exhibition, artist Swapnaa Tamhane explores the material and conceptual resonances of cotton through the manipulation and treatment of surfaces. Through this process, she pushes against colonial ideas and their contemporary manifestations.
The exhibition features two bodies of work displayed side by side. The first include textile works made in collaboration with artists in western India from the Kutch region. They are arranged in sweeping architectural forms that reference the Mughal and Ottoman shamiana (imperial tent), industrial textile production, and the shimmering mirrored walls of mud homes, layered with motifs from mid-century modern architecture by Le Corbusier in Ahmedabad, India. The second body of work includes drawings on paper handmade by Tamhane from khadi (hand-spun coon cloth) that has been deconstructed to its base fibres and reconstituted. In these works, drawing can take any form of markmaking—from pencil or ink on paper to folding, crumpling, and mixing paper pulps even before the paper has dried.
Tamhane will be speaking at the Fall Opening reception on September 23. Dewan will be giving a curatorial Tour and Talk on October 12. T'ai Smith, Associate Professor, Department of Art History, Visual Art, and Theory at the University of British Columbia, will join Dewan for the talk.
View the Surrey Art Gallery Presents publication. Gallery associate curator Sameena Siddiqui interviews Deepali Dewan on the the exhibition themes and relevance within Indian social history.
About the Artist
Swapnaa Tamhane is a Montreal-based artist, curator, and writer. Her body of work includes drawing, textiles, handmade paper, text, and sculpture. Current and recent exhibitions include Vaporizing into Mist: Innovation in Craft Through Art & Design, Nature Morte, Delhi, Sculpture Park 3, Madhavendra Palace, Jaipur, DROP CLOTH, Hamilton Artists Inc., Worlding Public Cultures, FOFA Gallery, Montreal, Mobile Palace, ROM, and The Golden Fibre, V&A Dundee, Scotland.
Curator: Dr. Deepali Dewan
Origin of Exhibition: Surrey Art Gallery