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The Tale of Gond Art

The Gonds, the largest Adivasi Community in India are of Dravidian origin and can be traced to the pre-Aryan era. The word Gond comes from Kond, which means green mountains in the dravidian idiom. The Gond called themselves Koi or Koiture, but others called them Gond since they lived in the green mountains.


Deer/Antler by Jangarh Singh Shyam, Image credit: Foundation Cartier


In the 1980s, a renowned Indian artist, J Swaminathan, was building a new wing for Bharat Bhawan (India House), where Tribal and Urban art would be displayed. J Swaminathan sent his students into the villages to search for tribal artists. One of them saw an image of Hanuman (the monkey God) on the wall of a house. When he met the artist, Jangarh Singh Shyam, he asked him to make a painting on paper with poster colours.

Jangarh Singh Shyam was the first Gond artist to use paper and canvas for his art. His talent was soon recognized, and his work was exhibited all over the country and internationally. He can be attributed to starting the present genre of Gond art which is named Janagarh Kalam in his honour.


Gond paintings use a technique of creating textures by pattern. The artist starts with an outline, which is then filled with block colours. This is left to dry, then elaborate patterning is painted on top, which gives the designs their distinct three-dimensional quality. The artist has to be very precise and the patterning process is very time consuming.

The artists reflect their perception of life through these freehand paintings. For wall paintings, mud plaster base is used over which linear patterns are etched with the fingers.

In Gond tribes, the ground and walls may be used as canvas while limestone and charcoal are used as mediums to make various decorative paintings for their houses. These paintings are not restricted to paper and do not entirely depend on synthetic colors.

Mahua Tree by Choti Tekam, Image Credit:



Gond paintings have numerous themes including folk stories, nature, religion etc. The paintings could be flamboyant and colorful or could be simple and sophisticated in black and white. Though the style is similar, each painting has individuality in expression and interpretation.

Australian Aboriginal painting — Yarla Jukurrpa (Bush Potato Dreaming) — Cockatoo Creek, Image credit: Kate Owen Gallery


Gond paintings bear a remarkable likeness to Australian aboriginal art. In both these art forms, the brush moves as dots or lines as fillers.

Gond painters have created their own signatures using patterns. Some draw circles, while some draw lines, some use myriad colours, while some stick to black and white.

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Making fashion relevant: lessons that Paris, New York, Milan & London could learn from Amsterdam fashion week

Amsterdam is a beautiful city famous for its canals, museums and infamous for its “coffee shops” & “red light district”. What Amsterdam isn’t famous for is fashion. While dutch painters & modern design are renowned worldwide, dutch fashion, not so much. However, if one were to look closely at the ongoing Amsterdam fashion week and also the ones before, one would find that Amsterdam and by correlation The Netherlands was and remains at the forefront of addressing several current issues upfront.

Political catwalk, which I witnessed first hand is a great example of trying to change the fashion conversation. In its second year, political catwalk is a platform for today’s youth to have their say on politics via fashion. The initiative allows 20 young people to create designs for 10 politicians, culminating in a competitive showcase, where the politicians are also their models. The sheer diversity of talent on display at this years show was phenomenal. Designers addressed issues such as diversity, acceptance, empowerment in, at times heart wrenching moments. Moments such as the catwalk filled with people of diverse shapes, colours and ethnicity. A white dress with a long veil with diversity, peace scribbled on it. Moments, when all one could think of is that all anyone wants at their core is acceptance and sense of belonging.

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Narjiss Bakali won this year with a hot pink dress shaped like the symbol of femininity.

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The concept is a unique & impactful way of encouraging young talent. An idea more popular fashion weeks could use to great effect.

On the more commercial front with still younger designers, Jenneskens, who had her first real show, put on a very well executed and coherent presentation. The collection is called Episode 04; volume 1: Water Retention. The idea being that each look is linked to the other and like water molecules form a whole when they are close to each other. A bright, athleisure infused collection for both men & women. I could see a lot of these pieces in The Netherlands as well as fashion capitals like New York. The collection reinforced the idea of creating something beautiful together.

Picture credit:

Picture credit:

Going back to her roots was Maaike van den Abbeele. Her collection was inspired by the dutch golden age and her own childhood. Influences of dutch masters such as Rembrandt & Van Eyck were interwoven with symbols of power such as the lion motif. The combination of a powerful motif with the delicate tulle and sheer gold stockings was sending out a message that elegant doesn’t necessarily mean powerless. The designer paid homage to her dual nationalities by incorporating colours from both the Dutch & Belgian flags into her collection.

Picture credit:

Picture credit:

While smaller fashion weeks like that in Amsterdam do not garner as much press, their larger counterparts have much to gain from them. They are brimming with new ideas and ways of ensuring fashion remains current & relevant in this increasingly politicised world

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TEFAF 2018

Established in 1988, TEFAF is a world renowned organization of fine art, antiques, and design. TEFAF runs three Fairs — TEFAF Maastricht (our home town), which covers 7,000 years of art history; TEFAF New York Spring and TEFAF New York Fall, covering fine and decorative art from antiquity to 1920.

We have been visiting TEFAF since several years now. We have found that it is an exceptional opportunity to view an open museum with rare pieces that would normally be behind a security glass. Moreover, where would one find the possibility of viewing Renoirs, Van Goghs, Monets which are actually on sale.

TEFAF 2018 

Maastricht has been hosting TEFAF for 30 years now! And for 30 years, Ten Kate flowers & decorations have been providing the exceptional flower arrangements that can be seen right from the entrance to various spots within the fair. This year, the arrangements involved flowers in test tubes suspended via almost invisible wires. They made for a stunning

The fair is open to public and many private collectors purchase pieces from the fair. The exhibitors put in a lot of effort to create breathtaking stands, like this stunning booth put up by a gallery showcasing oriental pieces such as chinese vases, tables as well Louis XVI oak panelling.

The best part, you can ask any question you want about a particular piece. The gallery personnel will happily tell you everything about it including the price — if it is not listed that is.

This is how we found out that the Chagall here (below) was on sale for 1.25mil euros. There were atleast 3 Renoirs on sale at this gallery. 2 of these you can find below.

Top to Bottom: Sisley, Chagall, Renoir (both)

Price negotiations are also absolutely normal, however, once a piece is sold, the dealers will not disclose the price at which it was sold.So,we could not find out the price of these 2 VINCENT VAN GOGH’s, since they were already sold out. There were a total of 4 on sale this year.

Vincent Van Gogh’s on sale

There is something for every art enthusiast here, from Dutch masters, classical art to modern art & antiquities as old as 600 BC. The fair can be quite overwhelming when viewing such important art works, but it is certainly the highlight of the spring calendar for TalesonSilk.

These are some other pieces that caught our eye

Top to bottom: fabric made from bottle tops; A piece made from cut paper with intricate details of faces; antique horses
Top to bottom: A surrealist artwork, Kees Van Dongen 
So, if you fancy yourself a piece of art, do not forget to visit TEFAF next time. In the meantime, we have plenty pieces of art for you here and you need not spend a pretty penny for them. 
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Balenciaga — Shaping Fashion, A celebration of shapes

Was Cristobel Balenciaga celebrating diversity of form in the 1950s/60s when he created exquisite pieces celebrating myriad shapes from the book of the geometry?

The exhibit at V&A does make one think so. The voluminous garments which are intended to stay away from the body are as relevant today as they were when they were first introduced. In fact, they were considered fairly controversial when they were introduced at a time when Dior’s New Look with its nipped in waist and feminine shapes was all the rage.

It is quite an achievement in the field of fashion to introduce completely new silhouettes. And yet, Balenciaga is credited with introducing timeless silhouettes such as the shift dress, the cocoon coat, the babydoll dress and how very 21st century of him to introduce a hard-working piece which could work as a skirt or as a top. All of these innovations focus on an inherent elegance showcased by enveloping the wearer in voluminous fabric without restricting the figure. Designs that would look beautiful irrespective of the wearer’s body type.

If one were literal like me, one could clearly see the shapes in his designs. A circle in the form of the bubble dress made of green gazar silk, a square in the form of the black sack dress, a triangle in the form of the envelope dress.

Sack dress, image credit: V&A

However, the most interesting part of the exhibit are the construction techniques. They feel as though we are being made privy to secrets of a cult.

Take this coat. The delicious secret behind this coat is a ribbon which holds the fabric together to form the gathers.

This video reveals an incredibly satisfying construction of a minimalist ensemble from 2 pieces of fabric.

The fun does not end there, we are also invited to recreate a deceptively simple T coat from paper. Cut, fold, crease and make a coat

Looks simple, it isnt

If one looks closely, one can find that the shapes that Balenciaga was experimenting with have crept so much into fashion’s psyche that it is almost impossible to find a design house not influenced by it. The exhibit also highlighted his impact on both avantgarde as well as mainstream spaces in showcasing designs by the likes of Rei Kawakubo, Delpozo, Gareth Pugh, Molly Goddard, Hussein Chalayan and lots more.

The fluted sleeve printed dress as well as the flamenco inspired dress could be in any woman’s wardrobe today. High street is full of exaggerated sleeves and ruffles with them being a huge trend this season, showcasing how relevant his designs are even today

It would be difficult to find a western woman’s wardrobe devoid of Balenciaga’s influence and that is a good thing, because he was definitely onto concepts that are so relevant today such as diversity of shape, appreciating the female form while giving it the freedom to move, to express herself.

A longtime client offered a fitting epitaph: “Women did not have to be perfect or even beautiful to wear his clothes. His clothes made them beautiful.” (quote credit:Met)

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Gateway to Sustainable fashion via Couture

There has been a lot of conversation around the recently concluded couture week in Paris. Since some time now questions have been raised about whether couture has a place in today’s world. To quote Business of Fashion – What season is this exactly? What is on show? Is it couture, demi-couture, resort? Man Repeller questioned if couture had gone too casual with attendees in denims. In fact, denims were presented at the Fall 2017 couture week.

Image credit: @voguemagazine

Maybe couture should not and cannot be boxed into seasons or occasions. Maybe couture is meant to cause confusion and left to the interpretation of the individual – much like art. Because, what is couture if not the highest form of wearable art? In fact, one of the most interesting Dutch couturiers – Viktor & Rolf presented a very literal manifestation of wearable art in their Fall 2015 couture collection.

For me, that collection was asking the question – Should fashion be restricted to the concept of “covering our bodies”? If the answer were yes, then maybe, couture is one place where all the crazy ideas could come together and a place where fashion goes beyond this visceral idea. Couture as a fashion mecca for starting a conversation, making a statement, talking about thoughts, ideas, feelings.

However, fashion is also a business and the genius of a designer is when they take these abstract concepts of couture and distill them into clothes that are available off the rack for us mere mortals to wear. John Galliano gave a fascinating explanation of how Maison Margiela’s highly conceptual artisanal collection is distilled into RTW, all the way down to accessories during the BoF Voices event. I wonder if all houses follow this journey or is it about being specific to a collection and theme and each collection deserves a new theme.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to know that a piece in your wardrobe was born from an abstract concept amounting to wearable art and that you are now adding to that story with your own interpretation of that piece? It might even encourage us to view our wardrobe as our own personal art collection and hence each piece is curated and has a story and isn’t a disposable item we use to “cover our body”. Each piece is an heirloom, treasured and cherished and passed on to future generations until it cannot be worn any more. If all of us thought about our clothes this way, we probably could solve many issues plaguing fashion today such as mass consumption, human rights, pollution. The incessant chatter about the changes afoot in the fashion industry might amount to this.

Fashion as wearable art entwined with personal stories.

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