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Indian Woodblock Prints - Tracing the Origins of Motifs Found in the Villages

April 5, 2018 - July 14
Opened on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Courtesy Cloth "Matanipachedi" Gujarat States, India
"Skirts" Rajasthan States, India
"Cloth" Gujarat States, India
photo:Ryohei Sasatani

     The poster of this exhibition features a piece of cloth, used by lower caste people, which depicts a goddess, and is still made in the Ahmedabad region today. Using hand drawn outlines, the cloth depicts overlapping mountains (probably the sacred Kailash mountains). The dignified goddess sits atop the mountain in a temple, with a black mountain goat and musicians. She’s surrounded by layers of women holding flowers. It is a much-beloved piece of cloth used by lower caste people, who cannot afford a temple.

     When I first visited India, it was the everyday woodblock printed cottons of the villagers which caught my attention. I had only ever seen a precise version of that technique used in Japan, and these pieces were astonishing. The cloth was starched, placed on the ground, and animals and people walked over it. No one was concerned, and work continued on the cloth. They were fearless. While four women held the four edges of the cloth, a piece of rag was placed in a bucket filled with dye. The piece was dyed all at once. The women holding the fabric were afraid of sunshine, and they hid their faces behind their sarees. The printing on the finished cloth has variations in color and placement, but because of that irregularity, the cloth makes a simple pattern come alive.

     When I first visited India, it was the everyday woodblock printed cottons of the villagers which caught my attention. I had only ever seen a precise version of that technique used in Japan, and these pieces were astonishing. The cloth was starched, placed on the ground, and animals and people walked over it. No one was concerned, and work continued on the cloth. They were fearless. While four women held the four edges of the cloth, a piece of rag was placed in a bucket filled with dye. The piece was dyed all at once. The women holding the fabric were afraid of sunshine, and they hid their faces behind their sarees. The printing on the finished cloth has variations in color and placement, but because of that irregularity, the cloth makes a simple pattern come alive.

     The cloth and the patterns are coarse and simple, and sometimes humorous. I listened to the enthusiastic grandfather, and by the end, I had enough to open a store. I washed fabric in gutters of the castle town of Jodhpur, and in a dirty pond all at once in Barmer, a town near the Pakistan border, and dried it on the banks of pond. It is said that dirty water increases robustness. Who knows whether to believe those silly rumors or not. This time, the exhibition features a large number of textiles for the viewers' enjoyment. After a long break from Indian villages, with this exhibition, we return to that theme.

Hiroko Iwatate