I have to be honest. When was invited for the mixed media art installation done by fashion designer Varun Sardana, was a little skeptical as to what sense I would be able to make of fashion as art. Well fashion makes sense to me when put on models in a conceptualized show manner or even when hanging from the hanger at the designer's studio. I guess my skepticism was more about the word 'art'. When I was working in PR and brand development, was fortunate to be exposed to some great artists and their works (boss was a passionate art collector and we represented some of the leading art galleries in the city), which gave a good nice look inside the booming art world. But that was that. Think I was more inspired by the passion of the artists and buyers than recognizing good art from bad. My ability to 'like' art was quite personal and didn't always match the expert's opinion. Anywho, so coming back to the invitation for art meets fashion show put up by Varun Sardana for Artists Residency KHOJ, was a thing not to be missed yet to be analyzed cautiously.
His installation was titled 'Photo State'. An isolated room with white wash walls - but in sky blue, a lonely bulb on the ceiling, a hand embroidery table on the floor which had Varun's body multiple images sans the face as print on fabric. "Ok I could try harder. Think more. Ask more. Look more." I said in my head. On two walls were more self portraits by Varun in a location what seemed to be his workshop. One with a bird's mask staring at wooden bird toys - an inspiration of colors, patterns that seemed to reflect on the one garment from the collection put on display. One with Varun in an orange mask sitting infront of his mood board looking at you with a tilt of head and no expectations. That photo made more sense to me - is he relaxed in his state of reclusiveness from the industry? Is he not participating in fashion weeks season after season and quietly working on his craft from behind a mask? Is he toying with idea of using traditional embroideries and colors in his work which he had seemed to stay away from in his initial collections? What I wanted to believe was that this is Varun's way to let people peek in his life and craft. It would be hard to imagine an artistic mind like his taking a break from creating just because he decided not to showcase at India Fashion Week(s). I was told the self portraits indicated the introspection the designer spent a lot of last year doing. And how his work and brand was not just about him but about another identity he wanted to serve under named 'Varun Sardana'.
Little lost, I continued to look more. Letting go of the 'art' pressures, tried to now look only at the sole garment lying inside the room from his Fall Winter 2012 collection. A black blouse with gold embroidered cutaway in the front-centre bottom end, peculiar yellow-orange animal print fabric, and fitted sleeves with red and blue detailing. That one top was enough to give a small taste that he was definitely working his way up from the last collection - with more techniques, stronger editing, constrained colors and traditional inspirations in view.
The exhibition is not on display anymore. Selfishly I hope we get to see the entire collection from the designer soon. In any format will do.
Previous posts on designer Varun Sardana: