Kolkata's Rita Rakshit gives traditional embroidery art a new expression

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Kolkata, Nov.11 : Rita Rakshit, a middle-aged woman in Kolkata, has presented embroidery in an unconventional art form here.

Rita's work depicts picture stories, amazingly like paintings on canvas through her special embellishment technique.

Embroidery is the art of decorating fabric or other materials with motifs stitched in strands of thread or yarn using a needle. Embroiders also use other materials such as metal strips, pearls, beads, quills, and sequins to decorate their work. Sewing machines are used to create machine embroidery.

By deviating from tradition, Rita intended to elevate her embroidery from something more than flowers or climbers on bed covers and pillowcases or even designs on attires. She transformed the humble needle and thread talent into exquisite art work by creating astounding landscapes, portraits and figurative works, which she says needs a high degree of perfection.

"With a paintbrush it's easier. If I didn't like one colour, I can mix and match and create new colours and make changes. But here that's not possible. I have to change the whole cloth. If I start a portrait or do the eyes first and they don't come out properly, I have to change the whole cloth and start again. It's very difficult. Painting can be redone on the same canvas, but not this," said Rita Rakshit, the artist.

She has received training in embroidery for about three years and has been seeking to give it a new definition since 1992.

Rita has perfected her embroidery art to the extent that many people at first glance mistake her work for paintings or pencil sketches.

From sunlight filtering down on trees to a crow perched delicately on the head of a statue, from Rajasthani women dancing to the anxious face of an old woman and legendary filmmaker Satyajit Ray to Amitabh Bachchan, from cats to Goddess Durga, Rita's embroidery work captivates everyone by her themes and depiction.

"Shades are done by changing the threads constantly. The threads of different colours are used to create a particular shade. Like the cats' eyes, I used different threads-blue, yellow-for each stitch to get the perfect shade. The process begins with sketching, then I use pastel colours to colour the sketch marginally, to get an idea. Then I create the idea on cloth through embroidery," Rita explained.

Krishna Bhattacharya, the proprietor of Artist Circle Gallery, which hosted Rita Rakshit's exhibition recently, said that Rakshit's work is lasting and unlike other art, it's impossible to copy.

"This is the kind of work has a primitive flavour because needle and thread is a very ancient medium and I think not many people do it because it is very difficult and laborious. It's time consuming, too much effort, too much of strain on the eye so not many people will go into this field that I can understand. But from what I saw in Rita Rakshit's work I thought that she should get a platform in the gallery to exhibit her work," said, Krishna Bhattacharya.

It takes Rita months to complete one piece. The work is difficult but it is her dream to redefine this traditional skill and make it a viable proposition for future generations who would view it as art, something done with creative skill rather than a mere avenue of livelihood or a favourite pastime.

"I want people to recognize this. I want to teach others too to prevent this art from dying. This traditional talent surely needs revival but not in the ordinary way of bed covers etc or through a few 'Kantha' stitches, but it has to be evolved more and accepted as an art," said Rita Rakshit.

Even though embroidery has been a traditional art form in common Indian households, especially in small towns and the rural parts of the country, the latest attempt to present it distinctly before the art lovers may generate a new enthusiasm and charm for this art. By Ajitha Menon

ANI

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