It is intoxicating to be listening to the tales of a perfectionist and his journey, specially when the conversation is laced with famous urdu quotes like “log saath aate gaye aur carvan banta gaya!” by Majrooh Sultanpuri. But, staying true to my roots, I got more clued in our conversation only after he told me that he lived like a proud North-Indian in Ahemdabad- one of the most culturally diverse cities in Gujarat.
Having studied in a Gujrati-medium school, Asif Shaikh is a thinker, who opted for Interior Design from the Centre for Environment Planning and Technology. He looks at himself as an editor, who is capable of dabbling in anything creative e.g. interiors and theme weddings which includes the card, decor, bride’s jewellery, clothes, accessories and trousseau packing.
With a background in design, combined with cerebral aesthetic intelligence, Asif’s choice of natural fabrics and material have enhanced his workmanship with connotations of magnificence, surrealism and jewel-like quality. His earliest memories of embroidery are of his mother transforming a plain piece of cloth into an object of beauty. That fascination matured into a passionate vocation without doubt, as he is currently counted amongst the most creative, in the world of fabric artists.
In “Flight of Imagination”, there is an emphasis on a flight of birds embroidered on fine white silk net with white silk yarn, which gives it a very ethereal quality. Herein, he has intentionally created a mystery around the Birds of Attar (the great Sufi master). This congregation of birds in search of themselves, enter another world, where they take the whirling flight of Sirmurghs.
Through this he has also portrayed his life’s journey, which in the beginning was stressful; withstanding the pressures of the three circles – clients, friends and family, only to learn later how to communicate with his higher intelligence to achieve the impossible. Which he feels was only possible due to his bent of mind being towards spiritualism (sufism) and leading a disciplined life. So the real connect with the universe happens whenever he is at home, at the end of the day, under a heady influence of sufi or classical music.
Asif’s intricate patterns were originally patronized during the times of Noor Jehan, the chief consort of Emperor Jahangir, in the 17th century Mughal empire. With much ingenuity, he has used the karchob (frame/adda) (used to hold the fabric while it is being embroidered) as a modified scroll frame. This has helped him in experimenting with Aari, Zardozi, Chikankari, Kamdani and Soof to create miniature embroidery artworks. And so intricate are these designs that their neatness can best be appreciated only with a magnifying glass!
“Flight of Imagination” is a ‘must-see’ exhibition, especially if one has seen his previous one, –‘Resurgence-Revival of Indian embroideries’, two years ago. This began on 25th Sept. and is up until 17th Oct ’15, at Art Motif – an art gallery in Safdarjung Enclave, New Delhi. It is curated by Jasleen Dhamija, who is best known for her pioneering research on the Indian handloom and handicraft industry, especially the history of textiles and costumes.