2011 / 2017
It is a tight thread between Chennai and Paris.
It is a union beyond the borders.
It is combining pearl and pigment, canvas and embroidered thread.
It is a bet between two aesthetes.
It is an audacious collaboration blending an ancestral craft with gestures guided by intuition and mystery.
In 2011, painter Caroline Dantheny meets Jean-François Lesage, responsible for the precious link between the two sister-houses, Lesage Paris and Vastrakala established since the latter’s creation in Madras, India. From that unexpected collaboration was born a sincere friendship and works combining the lively expression of abstract painting and the finesse of embroidery.
Today, embroidered canvasses are the subject of an exhibition in India and promise us a journey around the world, to make art’s flame shine.
What is a trace if not the irrevocable mark of time, the trail that weaves toward the wounded animal, the holes in the snow or the ink on the blotting paper?
There is the joint trace to the gesture, the one rushing forward, slender, from the Japanese master to the untamed one, shaking itself on the contemporary painter’s canvas. There’s always a mystery, something todecipher in the trace that is the depositary of the gesture.
What senseless debacle happened on this gold-flooded canvas?
« D'or et de bois sombres » wears the scars of a slimy fight. One could believe a simple gesture came frantically across the canvas, aerial or telluric, like a musical score making an army of violins sing before being cut by a deafening piano. A quasi-Wagnerian elevation, savagely erupting and lazily diving in a sea of gold. A gesture willing to touch immensity, capturing and moving us.
A triptych, a dialog between three canvasses, a narration in three times ; the universal number giving its achieving look to the work that could be named « the unachieved » but that the artist chose to name « Le dernier royaume », the entering gate to a marvelous world, far away and buried. Buried by that sky shaded by gemstones spreading on the painted canvas. Just like the joyful ants from « Erumpu » running maliciously to bite inches of paint maculated earth. That idea that embroidery might be the painted territory’s invader but also its precious ally once peace is reigning. Sometimes, like in this epic story unfolding before our eyes over three canvasses, the embroidery tells, by its absence : the extinction, the disappearance, the loss. Its colonies of threads and materials, disappearing at the third chapter, sent away or defeated, but life is no less peaceful, on the contrary chaos spits in white tracks, a big visual anarchy interrupts the first two canvasses’ dialog and destroys the process between painting and embroidery. That surprising scream the artist masters is the card falling at the chosen moment for better surprise and to restrain our tendentious envy to grasp the work through the intellect, here of no help.
It is a painting speaking with an open heart, to all the open hearts, to the careless who feel disarmed facing the unknown. For there is only unknown : that of the artist before his content, of the embroiderer jabbing the dot, of the spectators watching, of the ones from this last kingdom of which we only know it will find its longevity through this work sewing its secret.
Translation, Paul Laborde
The birth of an idea is a curious thing, sometimes it springs from a picture, a word, an emotion or sometimes like in this project, from a conversation. A friend, also a painter, suggested that I should “think“ some of my paintings as tapestry.
The year then was 2010.
Back then, I aspired to connect my painting with my not so distant past in fashion and creation of unique pieces. I knew that somehow one day these two universes would collide. Embroidery appeared suddenly and with it, the name of Maison Lesage.
After this initial idea, came the first encounter with Jean François Lesage. We shared the same passion for the beautifull and the unexpected and we were already discussing our willingness to work together.
The richness of materials and the embroidery stiches associated with my painting paved the way to a broad field of possibilities.
Our collaboration began and the first embroidered painting was made in March 2013.
Caroline Dantheny contact Jean François Lesage’s house rue des St Pères in Paris. Sophie de Montozon the collaborator of Mr Lesage, organized a meeting between the two artists. During that visit at Caroline Dantheny's studio on St Blaise Street, the desire of collaboration became evident.
March 2012 FIRST VISIT
Caroline travelled to Madras with the photographer Cyrill Brami for a first visit at Vastrakala studio on Kasthuri Ranga Rd. It was understood quickly that all work, painting and embroidery, would be done in the Tamil Nadu and that the embroidery should not merely be anecdotal. According to Caroline, the embroidery must intervene autonomously, free of the painting and vice versa.
February 2013 INSTALLATION IN CHENNAI
Caroline Dantheny set up her studio for 2 months on Charmiers Rd, Chennai in a building still under construction. She painted the first diptych “La source Jaillissante”. With the help of samples of embroidery and a research for materials, Caroline elaborated the first model under the expert eye of the master embroiderer.
March/April 2013 EMBROIDERY IN VASTRAKALA
A team of the best embroiderers set to work and after weeks of embroidery, "La source jaillissante" was completed. Caroline Dantheny falls ill and is hospitalized at the Apollo Hospital in Chennai. She flew back to Paris. Her convalescence lasted several months.
January 2014 FILM PROJECT
Film director Gaëlle Royer contacted the artist and proposed they make an hour-long documentary on the subject.
October 2014 INSTALLATION IN CHENNAI
Caroline moved her studio again from Paris to Chennai. She settled for 6 months in Cholamandal south of Chennai. Gaëlle Royer joined her and filmed her daily life for 2 months. She painted the great triptych "Le dernier royaume" as well as the diptych "L’oiseau bleu". The paintings are transported to Mr Lesage's private apartment at Poes Garden in Madras. Caroline moved there and the great triptych « Le dernier Royaume » is embroidered. It required a month and a half of work and more than 1200 hours.
Winter 2015 TRUCE
The weather conditions in Tamil Nadu brought tragic events during that winter and made it impossible to travel and work. Luckily the paintings that were stored in Jean François Lesage's apartment did not suffer.
January 2016 SCOUTING
Caroline Dantheny returns to India to find a new studio to relocate. She plans with Jean François Lesage the embroidery of the next canvases.
October 2016 NEW INSTALLATION IN PONDICHERRY
A new studio is set up for 6 months in Kottakupam, Pondicherry. The artist paints several canvases, including "La source", "Vents marins" and "Erumpu" intended to be embroidered.
March 2017 FINISHING
A team settles in the workshop/house of Kottakupam and successively embroidered "Erumpu" and "L'oiseau bleu". After 6 years, the "Painting India" project is coming alive.
The first exhibition sponsored by the Alliance Française de Madras and in the framework of "Bonjour India" will be held at Lalit Kala Akademi in Madras on January 2018.
The works will all be made in Tamil Nadu, India ( except Fig.1. "D'or et de bois sombres" & Fig.8. "Des racines de la terre")
The embroidery intervenes in an autonomous way, like the painting hence not to underline, signify or cover up paint tracks but as a new creative medium. Instead of intervening only with paint, I will do it with this new tool called “embroidery“. In order to sustain the surprise of this unexpected mix of mediums, I have decided to give myself total creative freedom. I shall paint without anticipation nor global vision and the intervention of the embroidery will come intuitively.
The embroidery is intimately linked with the painting, the small confronts with the big, the precious with the wild and the mastery with the disorganised.
It is a work that engages human cooperation, closely bonding two cultures, two different fundamental visions: India and France, the East and the West. This work is the ultimate testimony of this.
Embroidered paintings & Paintings
"D'or et de bois sombres"
"Le dernier royaume"
"La source jaillissante"
"Des racines de la terre"
"A la nuit"
Elements of work
Layout printed on tracing paper
Prototypes of embroideries
"Painting India", Gaëlle Royer
"La source Jaillissante", Caroline Dantheny
Wall of pictures
"Painting India", 62 pages
.1. Embroidered paintings & Paintings
.2. Elements of work
Layout printed on tracing paper
"Dairy", Photos reportage
Livre, 56 pages