“A tale of armed trade, colonialism, slavery, and the dispossession of native peoples.” - Dr. Sven Beckert
Chintz - the Indian fabric popularised for its vivid colors is tinted with a distressing history of transformation and disassociation which is largely neglected. The popular fabric was widely exported from India throughout Europe, however, with the fear of losing profits and protests from locals in their own country, the British Raj banned Chintz and went on to imitate the process. This fabric was stripped of its history and manipulated to be purposefully exotic, leaving behind a trail of suffering for the Indian craftsmen and economy. Nuanced iterations of the iconic motifs continue to emerge in mainstream Western media yet their origins are still extensively disregarded.
“The Fabric that was Banned” renders this transformation using the motif of a bird to narrate this story of entrapment. The work employs and builds on imagery of traditional Chintz contrasted with the English glazed replicas and modern iterations to showcase this timeline and the subsequent shift in power. Each piece focuses on a particular portion of the timeline, combining to form a continuous story unearthing this erasure.
The Calico Acts
Screen Print on Wood with Stepper Motor
40 x 40 x 5 inches
The disassociation of Chintz over time from its origin is narrated in this piece in the form of animation. The popular fabric was exported from India throughout Europe however, with the fear of losing profits in their own country, the British Raj banned Chintz and went on to imitate the process, leaving the Indian textile industry in ruins. The design continues to appear in works of well-known British designers while the Indian textile industry still lives to be tainted by the past. Each circle offers a glimpse at one moment in this troubling timeline.
Chintz to Chintzy
Screen Print on Wood Spiral
28 x 28 x 6 inches
Once, the fabric was banned and the British imitation of Chintz became popular, the cheap raw material was imported from India to the UK. After the fabric was printed and assembled, the same cloth would be sold back in the Indian markets at an inflated price, robbing the fabric belonging to that community.
The English Aesthetic Movement?
Screen Print on Wood
25 x 25 inches
The piece studies the transformation of Chintz after the ban of the fabric in the UK. Many artists and designers such as William Morris protested the industrial process that had replaced the role of the hand in the production of these fabrics. The Arts and Crafts movement began revitalizing these more intricate techniques however the clear ties to the original Chintz have been lost in history. This erasure must be acknowledged as this pattern continues to emerge in the contemporary world.
Screen Print on Wood
24 x 24 inches
Following the rise in demand for this vibrant fabric, the motifs slowly began to shift to cater to the European market. The designs became more “romantic” and “exotic’ featuring combinations of birds and flowers from all over Asia in a mismatched narrative.
Screen Print on Wood with Molding Paste
10 x 10 inches
The popularity of this Indian fabric in the European market is often referred to as the Calico Craze. The design was used for everything from clothing to wall-hangings to even diapers, creating a frenzied demand that left a troubling history.