Fibre art is known to highlight the materials and the artist’s labour, as its aesthetic value which Nidhi Khurana is practicing, based in New Delhi, by literally fabricating her artworks from natural materials.
As I entered her studio cum apartment her husband, Ruchin Soni’s murals and paintings in the entrance lobby welcomed me. While in the adjoining room, in one corner lay a sewing machine which threads fancy patterns on her mapped canvases for the upcoming exhibition at Alliance Francaise de Delhi from the 5th-13 Oct’14, where other artists like Matthias Spiess and Priya Ravish Mehra are also showing similar works. While sipping chilled homemade Hibiscus water and hogging on mushroom grilled sandwiches, I intently listened to her stories of using ‘katran’- discarded cloth materials, to depict the contoured maps drawn by the locals of their neighbourhood, during a public event organized by Wall People at Parque Mexico in Mexico City.
Nidhi had first mapped her way with a multi-dimensional route taken by her to Connaught Place from her house, in 2010 during her Religare Artsi Residency with the help of paper, textile and colours. Amidst the excitement of her work she showed me the pictures of her inspirations – three woollen shawls commissioned by ruler of Jammu and Kashmir, in the past, with embroidered maps of the region; one of which is at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, the other in the Museum of Srinagar but the whereabouts of the third were not known to her.
As my food settled well, her abstract art made more sense to me and our meeting lasted for nearly six hours. Beginning with the Indian art scene…..fibre art…..her love for cooking local cuisines…..reading and collecting books on Indian mythology, cookery and travelogues….introduction to soulful music by the Kabir Project, original Sufi music….and travelling for experiencing all this for days on end; I was joining the dots and figuring her creative bent of her mind.
After studying at a boarding school, Welham Girls’ School, she whetted her artistic mindset at the best art Institutes India could offer- Faculty of Fine Arts, Baroda and NID, Ahemdabad. And later started her career as an art teacher by going back to her school for 3 yrs., along with her husband. All the while she kept exhibiting at galleries in Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkotta so as to never loose touch with the outside world.
Along with art this husband-wife duo is busy bringing about a change in the draconian Indian education system by logically bridging art, science and maths within our daily lives for art teachers, as it’ll eventually help the child to retain better. Progressive learning centres have already added their module as a part of their curriculum e.g. Shiv Nadar School in Gurgaon and Noida and FICA-Foundation for Indian Contemporary Art run by Vadehra Art Gallery which supports Deepalaya School (NGO) in Okhla, New Delhi.
Unperturbed with the dismal art scene in India Nidhi and her husband are also in the process of setting up Es.ka.ke.- workshops in public spaces like art fairs, metro stations, universities etc. for artists to critique each other’s works in 10 minutes.
All this gives me enough reasons to stay tuned to her artistic journey from large to small scale productions in 3D on cloth and ceramic- both visually and materially.