Image: Ocean of News (detail), hand-woven tapestry made from newspaper threads, 6'-6' x 5'-0', 2017. Images Courtesy: Prasanta Sahu
Written by Brinda Gill
“My woven works find meaning in revealing details hidden within their warp and weft”, says artist Prasanta Sahu, who teaches at the Department of Painting, of Visva Bharati University, in the idyllic neighbourhood of Santiniketan in Bolpur, West Bengal, India.
Santiniketan has long been synonymous with art and artists, festivals, and fairs specially the Poush Mela and Nandan Mela. Visva Bharati University was founded in 1921 in Santiniketan, by polymath Rabindranath Tagore who received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913, and has nurtured artists and writers over the past century.
Prasanta studied Electrical Engineering and then the call of the arts led him to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in painting from Santiniketan followed by a Master’s degree in painting from M.S. University, Baroda. Seeing the world from the eyes of an artist, he has worked in different mediums, including painting and drawings, sculpture, installation, photography over the past twenty years. And more recently he turned to creating installations and weaves with `yarns’ made from newspaper strips.
Image: 176 Meters of News (detail), handmade ropes from newspaper ropes, 2017. Installation size: 1cm radius, 7 ropes total of 176 meters long. Images Courtesy: Prasanta Sahu
Prasanta tears newspapers into strips lengthwise, rolls them and then twists two or four together to obtain two-ply and four-ply newspaper yarn. In an installation titled 176 metres of News, he presented seven yarns, each made from 17 different newspapers of a day, of a week, that he purchased from the Bolpur Railway Station. Each yarn thus represented the news of the day, with Sunday’s being the longest!
Image: 176 Meters of News, handmade ropes from newspaper ropes, 2017. Installation size: 1cm radius, 7 ropes total of 176 meters long. Images Courtesy: Prasanta Sahu
The newspaper yarns have also been used to hand-weave a tapestry on a simple wooden frame by using cotton yarns as the warp and the newspaper yarns in the weft. For this Prasanta interlaces the weft by hand, allowing the news headlines and other text to show along some of the weft lines. He says, the process takes him back to his childhood in a village when he would watch his grandfather weave saddle luggage carriers, from yarns processed from jute grown on the family farm, for bullocks to carry rice and other food grains. “I used to assist my grandfather in making multi layered threads, thick ropes and in weaving. Technically I used the same technique to prepare the two-ply and four-ply threads out of daily newspaper for preparation of this work”.
Image: Ocean of News (Detail), hand-woven tapestry made from newspaper threads, 6'-6' x 5'-0', 2017. Images Courtesy: Prasanta Sahu
The woven work Ocean of News, 7 feet by 5 feet, has a few headlines, readable text, headlines of man-made calamities, texts of different news, commercials and small images appearing in the weft like the crest of waves in an ocean. The work shows how all news and all languages, are finally interwoven. While the pattern appears like a serene seascape, “the intention is to convey how many manmade mishaps take place that can be avoided, and also to subtly indicate how we consume news, the way we grasp it, memorise it over a period of time” says the artist of the work that took six months to weave and that prods us to engage with its many details and introspect about the world we inhabit.
Find out more about Prasanta's work: Prasanta Sahu