Cosmic Garden

Cosmic Garden

Chanakya Foundation

April 29, 2024
Cosmic Garden
An artistic collaboration between Madhvi Parekh, Manu Parekh, Karishma Swali and the Chanakya School of Craft
April 20–November 24, 2024
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Salone Verde Art & Social Club
Calle Regina, 2258
30135 Venice

Cosmic Garden delves into a narrative suspended between ancient Indian myths, the contemporary reinterpretation of Vedic symbols and the universal value of craft.

A Collateral Event of the 60th International Art Exhibition—the Venice Biennale, the exhibition features paintings and sculptures by Indian artists Madhvi Parekh and Manu Parekh and the transmutation of their practice into a collectively-created interdisciplinary medium—hand-embroidery. This metamorphosis is presented through crafted works and sculptures by Karishma Swali, Creative Director of the Chanakya Foundation, and the Chanakya School of Craft, a non-profit institution committed to the emancipation of women through craft.

Unfolding as an ode to both the pluralistic beauty of India’s cultural heritage and to the feminine creative principle “Shakti”, the project seeks to re-evaluate the mutual relationship between women and embroidery, transcending the confines of domesticity by bringing hand-embroidery into the public sphere.

Drawing from India’s figurative and esoteric traditions, these works showcase a variety of colours, forms and characters and invite viewers to reflect upon the power of self-transformation. The experimentation of contemporary forms coalesces with Indian artisanal and cultural traditions, celebrating a new, multidisciplinary approach which dismantles presumed hierarchies between genres and roles, blurring the boundaries between art and craft.

Madhvi Parekh’s paintings and sculptures depict female deities surrounded by celestial beings and symbolic representations, inspired by Indian mythology. Unfolding like a narrative, her work expands from a singular image into expansive narratives, blending childhood memories, folk motifs, legends and figures with abstract subjects. In Village Opera (2022), the self-taught, internationally renowned artist creates scenes of everyday life in Indian rural villages and combines them with Indian myths and depictions of deities. This vibrant tableau captures the interconnectedness of humans with divine entities such as Ganesha—the elephant-headed deity and son of Shiva and Parvati—portrayed alongside Indian goddesses, like Durga and Kali and a lively array of birds, animals, and plants.

Manu Parekh’s work, which is also influenced by Indian cultural traditions, in contrast, incorporates aspects of Western modernism and abstract expressionism. His vibrant compositions, characterised by broken lines, stripes, crosses and floral motifs, embody the cosmic harmony of masculine and feminine energies. Through colours and organic forms, he engages in bold experimentations and vibrant abstractions, which illustrate his relationship with the tangible and sensual aspects of the body, the creative and destructive power of nature and everyday life. In Shiva’s Tandav (2023), Manu Parekh draws inspiration from the Shiva Lingam, a sacred symbol representing the Vedic deity, Shiva. By incorporating this motif in his work, Parekh infuses the form with the energy of the Tandav dance, a divine performance symbolising creation and destruction. Through this juxtaposition of Indian myths with themes of spirituality, Manu Parekh explores the idea that destruction is not only about death, but also about beauty and renewal, akin to the transition of buds to the blooming of new flowers.

Affirming a dialogue which redefines the role of the artist and artisan, Karishma Swali and the Chanakya School of Craft have collaborated with artists Manu Parekh and Madhvi Parekh to create a series of crafted works, realised through meticulous needlework embroidery and handcraft techniques, as well as the use of organic materials like raw linen, jute, silk, and cotton.

Carving out an artistic language firmly rooted in their collective cultural histories, these works embody the artists’ and artisans’ aligned vision to preserve Indian cultural heritage and to commit to its endurance through responsible innovation. In Devi and Asura (2022), the representation of good and evil is visually portrayed through a complex interplay of threads. This multi-layered piece employs over 32 handcraft techniques, including fine stitch, couching, back stitch and stem stitch, as well as the use of cotton, linen, silk, and jute short-staple and long-staple threads. The artistic process required over 16,100 hours of work, with 30 highly skilled artisans contributing to its creation.

Karishma Swali and the school’s artisans also extracted ten figures from Madhvi Parekh’s painting Village Opera and re-imagined them in sculptures. Depth and texture have been added through the use of metal wire, paper mache, and organic limestone which have been intricately embroidered and layered so as to reinvent pre-existing forms and techniques.

Held at Salone Verde—Art & Social Club, in the historical venetian area of Rialto, Cosmic Garden complements Stranieri Ovunque—Foreigners Everywhere, the theme for Biennale Arte 2024, shining a light on the vital role of local communities in preserving the essence of Indian traditions and the transformative power of collaboration.

Curated by Maria Alicata and Paola Ugolini, Cosmic Garden is supported by Dior.

Further information and images can be found in the media kit.

For international media queries, please contact: Vanessa Saraceno and Maria Cristina Giusti at Pickles PR.

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Chanakya Foundation
April 29, 2024

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