Published: 10th May 2021
Forget clothes, this Chennai architect is using wooden blocks to create some amazing art on recycled paper
Prithy Ramadurai's woodblock printing series on Instagram saw her exploring traditional block printing in a new light
Block printing is an age-old technique to create beautiful patterns on fabrics. From clothes to upholstery, block printing can be found in various objects in our country. There is no doubt that it requires tremendous skill and knowledge to practice it and printers spend years perfecting the art. But what if this form of art could actually be turned into a painting, one that could be hung on any living room wall. This is exactly what Prithy Ramadurai is doing with her series on woodblock printing, which she has posted on her Instagram page @in.sanctum.
But it is not canvas that Prithy uses. "The block printing for the series has been done on handmade paper, which has been created from cotton scraps and leftovers from garments. These are then processed and pressed into sheets," explains Prithy. She says that her primary intention to experiment with block printing was to take it beyond fabrics, something it has traditionally been associated with. "I chose this handmade paper because it is not only sustainable but also at some point it was also a piece of fabric. It seemed quite apt to use this paper," she quips.
Prithy states that she has found inspiration for the patterns on the blocks from architecture, nature and fashion. "During the Mughal era, for example, similar aesthetics in terms of motifs, patterns and design could be seen in architecture, painting and even the attire worn by royalty. This shared aesthetic was quite interesting to explore through this series," says Prithy. Before getting the blocks made, Prithy sketches out her entire artwork and divides it up into separate blocks. "The blocks are made by block makers based in Kolkata. They are a family-run business and have been making woodblocks for generations," says Prithy. After getting it shipped from Kolkata, Prithy went to Lal Studio, Auroville to get it printed on paper. "I had tried block printing once before, almost two years ago, but I wasn't very successful at it. It was during the lockdown last year that I decided to explore it again," says Prithy. It was only during late 2020 that Prithy went to Puducherry for the printing.
An architect, who runs her own company called Bhogar Studio, Prithy says art has been something that has always drawn her since she was a child. "I am not formally trained in art though," she informs. After studying Architecture in Measi Academy of Architecture in Chennai, Prithy also attended summer school at École des Beaux-Arts at Fontainebleau in France. It is perhaps her architectural background that makes her artwork, especially in the woodblock series, what it is - filled with clean lines, arches and neat symmetry. "Colour is used to show depth and demarcate boundaries," says Prithy. In most of the series' artworks, a vertical line can be seen with a ball at one end. "I wanted to create the feeling of vertical movement, almost like it was transcending into another dimension," explains Prithy.
While the dye she uses for block printing is aso and chemical free, Prithy wants to explore woodblock printing of the artisans of Jaipur. "They are highly skilled in natural dyes," she says.