Cultural Immersion Proves Colorful for Printmaking Professor

Published: Sep 8, 2011
Ina Kaur, an assistant professor of art, traveled to villages in India this summer in an attempt to understand and bridge the gap between traditional and contemporary art practices.
Ina Kaur, an assistant professor of art, traveled to villages in India this summer in an attempt to understand and bridge the gap between traditional and contemporary art practices.
Kaur observed artisans carving intricate designs in the wooden blocks used in traditional printmaking.
Kaur observed artisans carving intricate designs in the wooden blocks used in traditional printmaking.

Ina Kaur was pleasantly overwhelmed with a saturation of vivid colors as she wandered through textile workshops and spent time observing Indian craftsmen in the state of Rajasthan.

Kaur, an assistant professor of art, traveled to the villages of Jaipur and Jodhpur this summer with the help of a 2011 David Delo research grant in an attempt to understand and bridge the gap between traditional and contemporary art practices.

She sat for hours mesmerized by the rhythmic stamping of artists who use hand-carved wood blocks to create designs on fabric. Throughout the process, the fabrics are dyed with natural pigments: electric blue from indigo, pink from pomegranate skins, brown from mushrooms.

“It is so simplistic and so amazing,” said Kaur, who grew up in India. This trip, though, allowed her to see her country through new eyes. “It was just breathtaking. I was sweating like mad but inspired by every moment.”

Kaur said that most of the Indian workers she met were proud of their work yet humble, uneducated and poor, having learned the business through generations of knowledge sharing. Cheaper screen printing methods are hurting traditional methods, which now cater to a more high-end clientele interested in supporting the craft.

“Whatever their resources are — in this case, their knowledge — they wanted to share with me,” said Kaur, who crouched in the cramped rooms while a dozen or so craftsmen carved intricate designs on the wood blocks. “I get goose bumps thinking of it. It was an amazing experience.”

Just a few days after her travels in India, Kaur couldn’t keep her hands off the printed fabrics and was inspired to sew them into a piece she considers an evolution of her traditional artistic style.

 

 

 


“It is aesthetically and conceptually the same, but the materials shifted,” said Kaur. “I blurred the boundaries.”

She showcased the work in a solo exhibit "Superficial Encryption(s)" at the Mehrangarh Museum Trust Galley in Jodhpur. Along with the new piece, Kaur showed about 40 monoprints she created while in residence at the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point, where she spent three weeks prior to traveling to India.

Kaur will showcase a similar collection of works at The University of Tampa Fine Arts Faculty show at the Scarfone/Hartley Gallery, located in the R.K. Bailey Arts Studios, Sept. 16 through Oct. 6. She also will be presenting her research and experience with the Honors symposium series in the spring and will be incorporating the new techniques and philosophy in her advanced printmaking and special problems classes.

Jamie Pilarczyk, Web Writer
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