A few years ago I had worked on a series of drawings on handmade paper titled Cosmic Design. These pieces were an attempt to visualize concepts that range from the microcosm to the macrocosm, from quantum mechanics to relativity and from singularity to infinity. I explored the dichotomies that are part of a whole and the limitations of our perception that create borders, separating and categorizing them. I had made stacks of circular handmade paper using abaca, flax and cotton pulp and played around with other materials while making the sheets, by sandwiching fiber, paper and altering the thickness of the sheets, giving me very varied surfaces to work on. With pen and ink, I made my drawings on the paper and then coated them with resin. The resin stiffens and warps the paper and also makes very thin sheets translucent giving the illusion of floating lines. I used thin monofilaments to suspend these drawings on the wall or from the ceiling to create site-specific installations. During our conversations the last few weeks, I have been rethinking about this series and how I could create new pieces with all the information I am learning.
Last week Leilhae had talked about the Shibori dying lessons she was taking online and how she would like to create artwork based on gravitational waves and black holes. So, we both discussed about possible ways to collaborate with our artwork and agreed that my mixed media circular drawing from the Cosmic Design series and her Shibori pieces would fit in very well. I enjoy doing embroidery and had started introducing stitches on the handmade paper, but had to discontinue due to other commitments. Now I am very inspired to create images of gravitational waves and black holes with thread on the sheets.
Before I studied the nature of spacetime, I was interested in the particles that inhabit it. During my PhD, I analysed the properties of neutrinos, an elementary constituent of matter that escape to be described by our current theories. We caught them in a giant water-based detector, the largest and purest pool on Earth, named Super-Kamiokande and located in Japan. Four times a year, I travelled to a small town in the North of Tokyo to take care of our detectors and meet with fellow scientists. Those jet-lagged weeks were intense in physics talking, particle interaction engineering, izakaya evenings and (bad) karaoke singing. In the middle of those intense periods, a breath was brought by the local cultural activities association that was visiting us to share traditional activities in the Japanese culture. Under their guidance, we learnt the tea ceremony ritual, to paint ideograms to decorate our offices, to fold origami, and the art of kimono wearing. So two weeks ago, when I came across an online class of introduction to shibori, the Japanese traditional art of tie-and-dye, I felt the need to revive this break in my research and spend again some time learning an Asian hand-on technique.
The class was online, as it was adapted by the organiser Rumi for the lockdown. She sent me instructions, and I tore down long dishcloths into pieces that I carefully washed and sunk in soy milk all night beforehand. When they were dry, I sat on a Saturday morning with Rumi who introduced me to the theory of the practice before showing me how to tie the different pieces to create motives. Under my hand, I took the square of fabric and folded them in regular or random patterns, turning their volume into little totems that I sunk in dark tea for another night. As I saw them sinking in the dark liquid, I thought that there was no way that the dye would not diffuse in the whole fabric, foreseeing squares as immaculate as my expected disappointment. Yet when I removed the rubber bands and strings, lighter patterns appeared in front of my eyes, portion of the clothes so strongly tight together that the liquid could not penetrate. This brought me an unexpected joy, as I contemplated the beautiful patterns dictated by a precise technique but still created under the complex laws of fluid diffusion. It was like if an embrace of material could protect it from the diffusion of a strong invader - reminding me, as Shanthi often says, that the beauty lies at the border of the confrontation. Here was a wave of abstraction, there rings that looked like expanding shock waves from a supernova. Reminding the thread art that Shanthi did in her Cosmic Design series, I told her about my experience, and asked her "would you be willing to experiment creating a piece of art with shibori?". I am glad that she agreed, and that we will share more about fabric art and physical laws soon.
Learn Shibori with Rumi (other times available on request): https://www.airbnb.com/experiences/1737188