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Stories stitched together

Goan artist Liesl Cotta De Souza is well versed at combining a traditional technique with a contemporary medium. Drawn to textiles and sewing, both of which have been traditional preoccupations for women through the ages, Liesl integrates these into her artwork in a novel way. She explores the use of thread and appliqué on printed fabrics, even as drawing remains an integral part of her work, and uses the process of creating a pictorial surface by stitching with thread on fabric.“The use of printed fabrics as a base or rather a background for my work was spurred from my surroundings. Seeing women wear clothes with varied prints highlighted and unleashed various aspects of the character for me. I sit and interpret people at any given opportunity. Also, natural elements like wind, water, etc add to the movements in the design on the clothes people wear and these also intrigue me,” says Liesl of her unusual artistic idiom.And so, in the artist’s most recent showing, we have a colourful assortment of lively images. There is the insouciant girl with her defiant umbrella in the rain, the beauty of a sun soaked beach, the languorous sensuality of a reclining woman; women hanging out clothes to dry or huddling together for a gossip session. Playful, contemplative, sensual, routine – there are many moods and varied scenes that emerge under Liesl’s skilful mastery.
“How did she do that?” is a common refrain heard through the gallery. Viewers are often surprised to come across her paintings and encounter rows of coloured thread and stitches. It is completely unexpected. Trained as a painter, Liesl translates that ability into another medium to fully express herself. She starts her artistic process by first drawing the image and then using printed textile as well as stitching to accentuate different areas of the composition. The threads come together to reflect form, dimension and depth.For Liesl, thread is the paint and textile, the canvas she employs, to capture the stories of women. The simple images show everyday ordinary characters.Says Liesl, “In most cases I do not find it necessary to interpret my works because I attempt to present the visual delights of life through the feminine form. The underlying layers of thread and fabric express my interpretation of the mundane world and the urban attitude we put up with. I have been trying to talk about domestic chores and other issues through my works.“I am inspired from observing the varied nuances of life, particularly in women. The surfaces of my work flow, as my thoughts wander around the subject; they are stitched as if I am drawing, the direction of every stitch, coming only from an artist who has used the pencil and the brush so extensively. Considering the vastness of the task of building up an area with stitches, to me is a fascinating process. Ultimately, my finished work operates in precisely the same way as any painting or drawing – it is to be hung on the wall.”Liesl’s passion for textile, fabric, embroidery and painting led to her combining her loves into one signature style that brings them all together.Her work reminds one of their grandmother, of times gone by, of a quieter time, of peace and quiet. In times of instant gratification and hectic time-bound deadlines – this is slow, time consuming, absorbing work painstakingly created and glowing with colour and dimension. [H]

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