Sunday, April 12, 2009

Nick Knight - Beasting

I recently rediscovered BEASTING, an arresting body of work from ace photographer Nick Knight, a result of his decade long professional relationship with John Galliano. An intense shoot for Arena Homme +, Beasting features the Autumn Winter 2007 collection of John Galliano’s menswear line. Nick Knight, who calls his association with Galliano a source of ‘continual stimulation’, has
captured a visually powerful brawny spectacle.

Knight’s reputation for pushing technical and creative boundaries is on full display here. After having worked on several controversial issues, ranging from racism, disability, ageism and fat-ism, Knight’s shots of the brawny males depict militaristic ritual and untamed pagan energy.

The cover image shows an intimidating man-beast with six arms, a fascinating symbol of hyper-masculinity. The brawny beast wears the headpieces, and garments of John Galliano’ menswear collection. The shots are a disturbing and fascinating blend of combative and sexual frenzy, where limbs and bodies seem to merge into one another. It’s indomitably a man’s space, with overtones of war and rough-play.

The man behind the shoot, celebrated photographer Nick Knight, refers to his body of work as ‘an ongoing communication, a response to events’. Nick’s work for publications includes i-D, Vogue, Dazed & Confused, The Face and Visionaire. His list of clients features Yohji Yamamoto, Christian Dior, YSL, Björk, Alexander McQueen, Massive Attack, and Calvin Klein. Apart from these big names, he has also worked with Jil Sander, Louis Vuitton, Vivienne Westwood, and Comme des Garçons’ Rei Kawakubo.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Remembering The Flowers - Phulkari From Punjab

Growing up in the Northern part of India, colour was an integral part of my life. Yellow draped mustard fields swayed in early summer winds; spring brought in trees laden heavily with flowers of colors so vibrant, we could spend hours looking at them, as we rode our bicycles through verdant gardens that were such a common part of our small town life. Those were simple times, when recession and lay-offs were unheard of, and women sang as they sat together, embroidering rich dreams into simple fabrics. And no embroidery was as colourful as Phulkari, a Punjabi embroidery technique, which literally means flower working. Using darn stitch on the wrong side of coarse cotton cloth with colored silken thread, Punjabi women sat creating intricate, alluring patterns inspired by nature and daily life.

Over a decade later, Phulkari has not only stood the test of time, but seems to be thriving. Especially in the ‘Darjiya Wali Gali’ (Tailors’ Lane) in old Patiala, Phulkari has found its connoisseurs as buyers from across the world flock to own a piece of this coveted Indian Art. My last visit to Punjab saw me walk through a colour-filled wonderland, where beautiful shawls, scarves, tunics, and shoes brought back fond memories of a time when all was right with the world. The original hand-made Phulkari is now rare, and comes for a price. But with colours that last for years, and exotic patterns that appeal to Indian and off-shore buyers alike, it’s an investment worth making. A well-made Phulkari scarf or a tunic keeps the compliments flowing in after several repeat outings. The patterns have now been modernized, but I prefer the old, classic designs. For those who find the traditional colours too bright, there are now softer pastels available.

If a visit to India is not on the cards anytime soon, online shops are a good option. Many online suppliers offer a variety of colour and pattern options suited for Western tastes. With its warm colours, and striking patterns, Phulkari makes a lasting impression. Much like the country of its origin – rooted in tradition, but with modern sensibilities.