Ajit Kumar Das: Dyeing Naturally

By Sohini Dey, Voice of Fashion, July 25, 2020

Photos from ‘The Art of Hand Painted Textiles’ released this June, following an earlier exhibition of Ajit Kumar Das’s natural dyed works 

When the late textile conservationist Martand Singh first met natural dye artist Ajit Kumar Das, the latter worked as a block printer in the Weavers’ Service Centre in Kolkata. “He moved like a dancer and his hands had a dexterity which was gratifying to watch,” Singh wrote in 2014 about the artist, more than three decades after their first rendezvous. Seeing a beautiful black and white drawing of cows Das had made in his spare time, Singh commissioned him to do a textile painting for a proposed exhibition. Since then, Das has worked extensively on textiles building an enviable oeuvre that has taken him to exhibitions across the globe and made his work coveted among art collectors.

Natural dye artist Ajit Kumar Das, at work in his studio.

A selection of Das’ hand painted textiles was showcased earlier this year in Gallery Art Motif, part of a series of exhibitions on textiles hosted by the Delhi-based gallery since 2011. In The Art of Hand Painted Textiles, a publication following the exhibition, which released in June, curator and writer Mayank Mansingh Kaul calls Das an “alchemist of natural dyes”, encapsulating his four decade long exploration of the medium. “This oeuvre ranges from expressively intricate botanical drawings, animals and birds, to abstract forms with a bold use of colour and calligraphy,” he writes. “Together, they can be seen as part of long traditions of painted and printed textiles from the Indian subcontinent over several centuries; Das picks up various strands from their diverse repertoires, simultaneously emerging with a distinct vocabulary quite his own.” Das’ praxis is rooted in Indian art and textile traditions, from his use of the kalam (the bamboo reed used by Kalamkari artists) and lush natural dyes to the profusion of local flora and fauna in his images. Often working on cotton, he suffuses the textiles with with colour and complexity. Here, a collection of his works, teeming with life portrayed in serenity, from the exhibition at Gallery Art Motif.

Pakshi Goshthi – Hand painted with natural dyes on cotton textile
Kamal Patra – Hand painted with natural dyes on cotton textile 
Bihagul Mastak – Hand painted with natural dyes on cotton textile 
JeevanTaru – Hand painted with natural dyes on cotton textile

Pakshi Goshthi – Hand painted with natural dyes on cotton textile

To inquire about copies of ‘The Art of Hand Painted Textiles’, contact Mala Aneja, director of Gallery Art Motif at mala@galleryartmotif.com.