Elan: A unique exhibition born from textile printing 
- Padma Jayaraj, Thrissur
e-mail: padmajayaraj@gmail.com

December 20, 2008 
Elan is a solo show by Sara Thomas at Durbar Hall, Kochi. The week long exhibition showcased a collection of textile art, each piece made using Shibori, the Japanese technique of dyeing silk and then combined to form the final composition.
Élan is a French word meaning the Spirit of Life. Truly the pieces display life: the beings, fluttering birds, bovine grace, machli in the blue, musth with its nobility and strength, purush and sthree, the two sides of a coin…
"The source of my inspiration is the beauty that I see around me...things that we may miss in our day to day lives. I love patterns and texture in Nature, the markings on a shell, the feel of a pineapple, the fragility of the fins of the fish...every day brings me something new and I wait for the moment when I can translate it into my work."
But the creative artist goes in search of the spirit beyond the form. For Mangrove is a source of living beings; Mirage, a slice of the desert; Window, offers a vista. The village Market a bunch of women selling vermillion tells the story of India's culture. Eternal mantle is of the bond between the mother and the child, or Nature personified. Harvest is a lyrical piece. Abyss is an abstract that speaks of psychological depth and misery. Monsoon and Autumn are beautiful compositions. 

Shibori comes from the verb root shiboru "to wring, squeeze, press, etc…" With this technique a three-dimensional form is embossed on a piece of cloth. Textile designing is an oriental art. In India, it goes back to the Mohenjo-Daro days. In Japan, Shibori, the art of dyeing clothes, is traditionally done on silk kimonos.

"I started exploring and experimenting with Shibori while in college," said Sarah Thomas. "We were taught the history of Shibori in Japan among other things. The importance of the process of working was always considered very important. And I believe this approach has really helped me."
Sara Thomas, a textile designer by training, takes a piece of white silk cloth to work her art on. The cloth is twisted, folded, tied, plaited, and even clamped with metals before it is hand-dyed to get different designs and hues. The dyed cloth is then cut into intricate shapes and used skilfully to form a work of art. It is like the art of tying and dying. The colour is cast and the design is formed. But there are times when the artist consciously works on a particular concept. It takes seven to ten days at times to make a piece of work, says the artist. For such pieces, different kinds of stitching are done on the cloth prior to dying. And later when the stitches are removed, lo... there emerge patterns aesthetically arranged as if made of brush strokes. Harvest is the result of this method. To give finer details, she uses stitch-resist and under stitch resist methods. And then comes, the next stage of superimposing by cutting and pasting that goes beyond the scope of Shibori. The artist in Sara Thomas is at her innovative best when inspiration brings surprises. For example, for designing Autumn she placed a green leaf between the folds of the cloth and the result was amazing, which was really the result of an experiment. Autumn, Spring and Flame of the Forest are typical block-printing designs. But Nadi and Moon River are beautiful pieces with lyrical touches. Blue Bottles is contemporary art and shows more technique exploration.


Using colours is another special feature of Sara Thomas. Apart from the three primary colours, it is a fusion of them that gives a new look to her pieces.
Sarah Thomas is a young graduate in Textile Designing from Srishti School of Art Design and Technology. Based in Kerala, she has been working freelance for studios in Bangalore. And she takes commissions or orders to client's specifications for a living. This is her first solo show meant to create awareness among people to the changing scene of art the world over. The 21 pieces on display is a ringing endorsement to her unique talent which keeps alive an Indian identity in modern equation. She can be contacted at msarahthomas@gmail.com 

Padma Jayaraj is a freelance journalist and a regular contributor to www.narthaki.com