This relationship between the natural world and the gesture of weaving also inspired Monika Correa’s journey. In the 1960s, for many years,the sculptor Piloo Pochkhanawala organised the Bombay Arts Festival. K. G. Subramanyan and Nelly Sethna, amongst others, were invited to participate in this multi-arts festival. Pochkhanawala insisted on the representation of textiles besides sculptures and paintings and Correa’s handspun wool work titled Original Sin was included in one of the shows. This was a watershed moment in the pioneering artist’s largely quiet career.
In 1962, on a visit to Finland, Correa had encountered the weaving of the deep-coloured, thick wool ryijy rugs. Months later, she met the renowned weaver Marianne Strengell, the Finnish-American Modernist textile designer, who taught her the fundamentals of weaving. In the coming years, Correa was to abstract forms from the abundance of nature to depict the sun, moon, clouds, trees, roots, snow and water in her works. In letting go of the reed, Correa was to work against technique and method itself – an act of courage that paid off in many measures, investing her work with intensity and a lively pictoriality. The reed-less weaving process allowed her to move freely, to choose her own course. In this uncertainty was a growing language, one that was her own and in her control. There was a minimalist tendency here that relied more on the simplification of form than on abstraction; there was also, however, a fascination with motion, and the desire to capture the transient, fugitive moment.
Priya Ravish Mehra. Untitled. Hand-done rafoogari on Pashmina cloth. 80” x 46”. 2017. Image courtesy Monica Dawar. © The estate of Priya Ravish Mehra.
Holding on to their own measures and metres, these experiments developed as distinct vocalities for both Mukherjee and Correa. They continued to distinctly converse with Modernism, negotiating with principles of frugality and simplicity to evolve a new form. Here was a dedication to material and an acknowledgement of its possibilities and limitations – a working with and around the media. There was also the desire to plumb local practices at odds with the grand global aspirations of Modernism. This was not a dismissal of this aspiration, but a strong preference.