Swapnaa Tamhane reimagines Le Corbusier's Mill Owners' Association Building with textiles - Upsmag - Magazine News


Swapnaa Tamhane reimagines Le Corbusier’s Mill Owners’ Association Building with textiles

When artist Swapnaa Tamhane visited the Le Corbusier–designed Mill Owners’ Building in Ahmedabad in 2015, she didn’t know she’d walk out inspired, or rather compelled, to create a new body of art—including the sweeping textile panels titled Mobile Palace—which hangs as the centrepiece of her first institutional show at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto.

Artist Swapnaa Tamhane’s Mobile Palace playfully challenges the history and hierarchies that exist between Indian art, craft, and design.

Paul Eekhoff/ROM

A direct response to what Tamhane refers to as “Le Corbusier’s alien invasion of India”, Mobile Palace turns the so-called high modernism in Indian art, design, and architecture on its head, using motifs as a symbol of resistance. In order to do this, she worked with two master artists from Gujarat: Mukesh Prajapati who carved the motifs into wood blocks and Salemamad Khatri who printed and dyed the cloth. And true to the spirit of Ahmedabad—the center of textile manufacturing in India— the panels are made of mill-made cotton, opening up new ways of working with artisans even on an industrial scale.

Walking through the installation, one cannot help but feel the expanse of India’s rich traditions and contemporary culture. “It is a space for not just a chosen few, but for everyone,” says Tamhane.

Swapnaa Tamhane Mobile Palace Le Corbusier Royal Museum of Ontario

A geometric motif, inspired by the view of the Mill Owners’ Association building from the entryway, is repeated to create a pattern.

Paul Eekhoff/ROM

in many ways, Mobile Palace marks the culmination of Tamhane’s bold practice, displayed alongside some of her previous works including drawings on handmade khadi paper; a more traditional rendition titled Tent: A Space for the Ceremony of Close Readings from 2018 and a cloth panel mirroring the indigenous village landscape made in collaboration with Qasab, a Kutch craftswomen embroidery collective. Together, they tell the larger—and uncontested—story of architecture in post-independence India.

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