Untitled (triptych), 2019, natural dyes and hand embroidery on cotton fabric, 6 x 8 ft
Lavanya Mani harnesses traditional domestic craft techniques to explore histories, trade, social dynamics. Having researched textile techniques through her college days, her chosen medium continues to be Kalamkari. The Kalamkari technique itself is replete with its own history, and Lavanya layers the fabric with her manifestations of historic and miniature references combined with contemporaneity, providing her audience with an optic of both the past and the present.
Signs taken for Wonders is often regarded as the root of the quest for knowledge. Wonders can be 'extraordinary phenomena', an emotional state or a curious experience. The best-known manifestation of early modern wonder was the curiosity cabinet, often called Kunstkammer or Wunderkammer, or 'wonder-rooms'. In the new body of work, the use of colours is rich, and the paintings are filled with multispecies. The life of shells, herbarium, underwater life, snakes, fossils - a world when multispecies had more agency.
The works in this show straddle myth, science, nature, art and history. Much like the cabinet of curiosities, and through the use of natural dyeing and handcrafting, they attempt to draw attention to the complex systemic phenomena that comprise a living planet. If modernism was the beginning of anthropocene, could these works be seen as a cautionary tale?
As Donna Haraway says, “Earth/Gaia is both maker and destroyer, and is not a resource to be exploited or ward to be protected or nursing mother promising nourishment. Earth/terra is made up of ongoing multispecies stories and practices of becoming — within times that remain at stake, in precarious times, in which the world is not finished and the sky has not fallen — yet.”
Lavanya earned her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in painting from the Sir J.J. School of Art in Mumbai. In 2001 she received her Ph.D from the Department of Art History & Aesthetics at the Faculty of Fine Arts, Maharaja Sayajirao University, Baroda.
Her multi-layered works are a collage of the artist’s thoughts and ideas expressed through a combination of several media, most notably various textiles that she has dyed, printed or otherwise worked on. The traditional textile-crafts like kalamkari that she references along with her muted palette, give the artist’s audiences a sense of nostalgia, while the iconic images she uses allude to very contemporary issues.
Amongst her recent exhibitions are A beast, a god, and a line curated by Cosmin Costinas, Para Site, Hong Kong, 2018; Connecting Threads: Textiles in Contemporary Practice curated by Tasneem Zakaria Mehta & Puja Vaish, Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum, Mumbai, 2018-19, and a show at the Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw, Poland in 2018.
The artist lives and works in Vadodara and Gandhinagar, Gujarat.