'Woven Structures : a collection of Sartorial Works' ; by Marie and Marissa Gnanaraj

Designer, Marissa Gnanaraj previously featured as ARTRA’s Emerging Artist in 2018, together with her mother, textile artist Marie Gnanaraj presents Woven Structures: A Collection of Sartorial Works from the 28th June to 18th July 2019. We visited the opening night of this exhibition and came across the intricately constructed woven pieces of art. Here’s a little insight into the exhibition:

Woven Structures is a collection of work that has been, in the hands of its makers listened to the stirrings of environment and context as it shifted and evolved around a home. And so, this collection emerges almost as an act of storytelling in texture and colour as it relates to fabric. Woven Structures tells of a commitment made by two women to the sartorial art/work, producing selected, individual pieces of work through creative processes telling of simplicity in approach and clarity of method. Within the folds and form of the work in the collection is an expression of the 1990s as a lived experience of modernity and the environment, shifting textures and changing colour tones, and an evolving sensibility and sense of practice.

Textile artist, Marie Gnanaraj was introduced to the colourful world if handloom in the year 1975. She apprenticed with renowned Artist Barbara Sansoni and is now the principal designer in weaving at BAREFOOT. Her approach to the woven is not a consideration of ‘cloth’ but as a site of expression and interpretive possibility. She believes that the artistry and versatility in weaving are being able to manipulate colour and texture, thus creating depth in design.

Marie Gnanaraj talks about how this exhibition of work is located in the 1990s sense of place, “There was a lot of construction taking place in my locality at the time. This constant building gave way to cement and red brick walls and building structures that then stood alongside old and deteriorating houses with washed-out grunge walls; forgotten cement water tanks loomed over asbestos roofs, lined with rusty gutters.”

Here was a sensorial landscape; this ever-present act of building becoming a found object of location and experience. Responding to this through her textural exploration, Marie reinterprets this memory using a traditional handloom, incorporating yam, fibre, and her own technique to create textural compositions. As a colourist, she paints through the exploration of hues as graduation, context, and contrast, which riff off the shades of construction. In its presentation, the work is telling of its own subtle richness; their verticality reminiscent of built structures. On a loom too, one is creating structures. For this is where the passage of fabric begins. Marie’s way to be invested in the traditional making, while reaching to contemporaneity in expression; this remains pivotal in her practice of examining texture and its interpretation on the loom.

For Marissa Gnanaraj woven fabric was an immersive experience in childhood, as much as she was in constant conversation with the fabric as she breathed life into her own sense of person as a maker, and her design philosophy and practice. As the daughter of a textile artist, she remains deeply connected to this legacy in fabric, “Textiles were highly valued at home for their utilitarianism. I was always encouraged to make things by hand, which meant that I always had an appreciation for the handmade. Individuality was valued. My wardrobe compromised a few well-stitched dresses along with some well-preserved hand-me-downs. On the rare occasion I got anything from a ready-made retail store it was always one size bigger so that I had room to grow into them. All these childhood memories left an indelible mark on me, and my perception of clothing and textile.

I now make sustainable clothing, with great care and detail given to garment construction. I use elements of classic tailoring detail and cuts, and pair it with Asian influences; the fabric designed specifically for the garment becomes an integral part of the design. Each garment is constructed as a unique, individual work.” She works from her home studio meticulously handcrafting all of her garments with one-of-a-kind detailing. In 2012, she launched her independent design label M FACT. Her design ethos is not trend-led, rather ‘season-less’, with silhouettes that have an easy fit vibe to them. The profundity of this ethos lies in its simplicity of intent: that people wear her clothes – the agentive becomes the garment that does not estrange the body, rather revels in the changing trajectory of the individual body.

'Woven Structures: a collection of Sartorial Works' by Marie and Marissa Gnanaraj took place at the Barefoot Gallery where every piece was placed intimately and in ways that complimented each other while the gallery itself paved the way to allow light to bring out each loom and colour on the works of art.

Marie and Marisa’s first collaboration was in 2011 for a clothing collection ‘Juxta – Op’. They continue working in collaboration. In 2017, their menswear collection ‘Horizon Infinity’ was nominated and short listed for Beazley Design of the Year and was exhibited at the London Design Museum.

ARTRA is Sri Lanka’s Art Magazine exploring curated content on Sri Lanka’s visual art, performance art, applied art and written art. Launched in 2012, ARTRA Magazine is a compact monthly art read providing a comprehensive understanding on Sri Lankan artists, art events, monthly art calendars and the Sri Lankan design landscape. In sum, all you need to know about art in Sri Lanka.

29th June, 2019 Applied Art