Mother India – Embroidered Tales
Anna Crichton, Artist talk 1pm.
Art is a fundamental part of the human experience and today too many are excluded, or not actively included. We have learned that the very simple and powerful act of looking includes the viewer in the way Du Champ famously said 100 years ago, “The spectator completes what the artist begins”.
The ‘slow art’ movement isn’t just about staring endlessly at paintings. Its also about accessibility and involvement.
Mother India, Embroidered Tales, by Anna Crichton exemplifies what Slow Art can be, both in the creation of the artwork and the viewing. From the three month residency, to sourcing materials and the valued crafts people, listening to the stories and the time to slowly stitch each bead and carve the exquisitely detailed woodblocks, time slows down. In turn, the experience of absorbing the content and layers of the adversity within the artwork requires a slow long look.
Anna will be in the gallery on Sat 2 April, 1pm for an artist’s talk with opportunities to join in a discussion and respond to the work.
Award winning illustrator, cartoonist and ceramicist Anna Crichton, travelled to Varanasi, India, on a three-month artist residency in 2017 to explore the sculptural potential of bead and thread embroidery and woodblock carving, as media for social commentary.
Once in India, the struggles and hardships of the rural poor – child marriage, female infanticide, forced sterilization, the caste and dowry system - all issues that particularly impact women, were realities that commanded Anna’s attention.
Developing ideas for abstract imagery that would reflect the tough lives of the less visible was a creative challenge for Anna and demanded a very different thinking process than required for her satirical illustration and cartoons.
The dusty chaotic streets of Varanasi are lined with alcoves selling myriad colours of glass beads, shelves of cotton and silk thread, bales of hand loomed fabric trucked in from the rural village looms - all new and inspiring media.
After sourcing the right beads, threads and cloth, and working closely with local craftspeople through curious and patient translators, along with Google Translate, Anna provided the embroiderers with detailed designs, her chosen beads, threads and fabrics, and thread direction overlays. Carefully following Anna’s designs, the embroideries were hand-stitched onto hand-loomed cotton and silk cloth, and then sewn onto street-worn canvas backings - formerly pedal rickshaw canopies that Anna bought from their bewildered and amused drivers.
Inspired by Varanasi’s wood block fabric printing tradition, Anna was introduced to a fifth-generation carver. From his stockpile of teak, recycled from flat-bed trucks, he precisely worked to Anna’s designs to create objects of beauty and functionality. Each of the wood blocks she commissioned tell their own tough story, and have been hand-rubbed by Anna onto fine village-woven silk.
Anna was so inspired by the Varanasi experience that she took off to India again in December 2019, this time to Ahmedabad - a part of India that still has a community of the fast-disappearing wood block carvers. Here Anna worked with the Mata ni Pachedi people - a small 600 year old community of Mother Goddess worshippers, the only printers to use natural dye. Here Anna created wall hangings that speak on behalf of the fallen tree giants, and the plight of those obsessed with power and wealth.
Anna is the five-time winner of the Canon/Qantas Media Editorial artist award. Her cartoon work has been published in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Time, The Australian, New Zealand Herald, Metro Magazine, Cuisine and in other well-known New Zealand publications. She is a two-time finalist in the Portage Ceramic Awards and her cartoon work is collected by The Turnbull Library Cartoon Archives.
Anna has lived in Titirangi, Auckland for 24 years. In her twenties, Anna collaborated on The Spirited Earth, a book documenting dance, myth and ritual in Asia, South East Asia and the Pacific. After exploring ceramics and the abstraction of Outsider Art, Anna was inspired to finding new ways of making commentary through her art.
Anna wishes to acknowledge and thank The James Wallace Foundation and The Asia New Zealand Foundation for their generous support in helping to fund her residency in Varanasi.
Each embroidery purchase will include a book of the blog I wrote while working with the craftspeople in India.
To view the work online click here