Woven Memoirs - A new kind of nature: Priya Ravish Mehra

5 September - 1 October 2019

At Chemould Prescott Road we feel honoured to be presenting works of the late Priya Ravish Mehra, who began as a weaver, but subsequently grew as an artist merging the integrity of her weaves into an abundance of materiality. Sewn with metaphorical meaning, aiming to restore general order, Priya Ravish Mehra's work with textile reveals a rare skill of woven tapestries, incorporating fragments of discarded weaves with paper pulp. Alongside her artistic practice, the research of textiles deeply involved her, often leaving the two practices as indecipherable life occupations!

“I employ the metaphor of rafoogari or traditional darning to invoke sudden, unexpected and violent rupture in our daily experience. It is a symbolic affirmation of the place, significance and act of existential ‘repair’,” the artist spoke about her work exhibited at Kochi Biennale, 2018. 

At Khoj Studio's 20th year celebration, in 2017, was where I first met Priya and had a brief yet meaningful encounter with her works that were a part of a group exhibition, titled, 'Evidence Room'. Conversing with her, I realised how much the work and the person were tied into each other. Her works showcased scrapped pieces of Jamevaar shawls that were mended, unveiling the delicate rafoogari darning, a practice carried on by the local rafoogars for generations in Najibabad, where she was brought up. One can, therefore, equate Priya’s experimentation with fibres that found its roots in her childhood in Najibabad, Uttar Pradesh. It was as if the process of darning was an allegory for her own body, healing the fabric of her own life. Sadly, Priya suffered from cancer with her body finally giving in 13 years later.

Starting out as a traditional weaver at Shantiniketan, she then studied tapestry at West Dean College, Sussex, and later pursued an advanced tapestry course at the Royal College of Arts, London. Priya’s tapestries deploy the vedic metaphor of ta, suggesting cosmic order, rule or truth; a term used in Indian philosophy. Some of her early works, tried to convey the realisation about these universal rhythms of ta - a response to nature, after which she began to combine, collect and integrate almost everything that nature provided - natural fibres, plants, thread, leaves, her own rejected weaves - often using paper pulp as the base for the work. Integrating all these found materials, she created a new kind of nature.


As far as Priya’s research was concerned, the subject of darning became her muse for over a decade and was the prime focus for several of her interactive workshops. In May 2018, a week before she passed away, she had organised a rafoogari workshop at the India International Centre in Delhi. Later that week, lying in the hospital, while the workshop continued, Priya was taken away from us far before her time.

 -Shireen Gandhy


About the artist

Priya Ravish Mehra was a Delhi-based textile artist and weaver, researcher and designer. She graduated in Fine Arts (with a specialization in textiles) from Visva-Bharati University, Santiniketan, and later studied tapestry at West Dean College, Sussex and an advanced tapestry course at the Royal College of Arts, London under the aegis of a Commonwealth Fellowship and Charles Wallace Trust (India) Scholarship. She also received an Asian Cultural Council Grant to study the maintenance and preservation of Indian textiles, especially Kashmir shawls, in public and private collections in the US. Priya’s textile and mixed-media work has been featured as solo exhibitions in British Council, Delhi (1993); Commonwealth Institute, London (1994); Jahangir Art Gallery, Mumbai (1997); Experimental Art Gallery, India Habitat Centre, Delhi (2015); Instituto de Artes Plasticas, Mexico (2016); Gallery Threshold, Delhi (2017) and ‘India International Center, Delhi (2018). She has also participated in group shows: Taumata Art Gallery, Auckland (1993); Rabindra Bhavan, Delhi (1997); British Council, Delhi (1999); 10th International Triennial of Tapestries, Lodz (2001); Rabindra Bhavan, Delhi (2005); ILF Samanvay, India Habitat Centre, Delhi (2016); ‘Evidence Room’, KHOJ, Delhi (2017); C-13, FICA, Delhi (2017); ‘Monsoon Chapter 12’, Art-Centrix, Delhi (2017); ‘Detritus’, Serendipity Art Festival, Goa (2017); and Aicon Gallery, New York (2018), Priya Ravish Mehra at the Kochi Murziris Biennale 2018-2019, Priya Ravish Mehra at the Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Mumbai.

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