Monika Correa

Original Sin

1972

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Not on display

Artist
Monika Correa born 1938
Medium
Wool and cotton
Dimensions
Object: 1890 × 1055 × 25 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased with funds provided by the South Asia Acquisitions Committee 2019
Reference
T15353

Summary

Original Sin 1972 is a wall hanging woven from dyed cotton and wool by the Indian artist Monika Correa. The top half of the composition is dominated by a large circle, woven in shades of vivid pink that contrast with the surrounding area of red and brown wool yarns. In the lower half of the piece, divided into horizontal sections with lines of black wool, Correa has woven various colours of yarn to form a series of vertical stripes. Horizontal lines of pink, orange and white balance the composition. The wool Correa uses for her weft (the horizontal threads) is hand-spun in Panipat – a city in the state of Haryana in north India, famous for its weaving and recycling of textile. This wool provides a thick and textured fabric and surface. The thick wool pushes aside the black cotton warp (the vertical threads), making the vertical lines waver as they cascade down the piece. Original Sin was made on a horizontal loom that Correa had adapted to remove the reed that keeps the warp threads in position. This allowed the artist to manipulate the warp threads and exaggerate their meandering line.

Correa began weaving in 1962, having taken lessons from the influential American modernist textile designer Marianne Strengell (1909–1998) during a short sojourn in the United States with her husband, the renowned Indian architect Charles Correa (1930–2015). On her return to India, Monika Correa commissioned a loom using designs she obtained from Strengell and continued to learn and experiment in weaving. Correa made four versions of Original Sin including this final rendering. The first version (which now no longer exists) was produced when Correa was commissioned by artist and curator Piloo Pochkhanawala to present her weavings in the inaugural Bombay Arts Festival in 1966. The title makes reference to the fact that the work was the very first wall hanging Correa made for the purpose of an exhibition. Initially producing dhurries, thick floor rugs common to South Asia, Correa began to make and exhibit wall hangings to avoid visitors and collectors walking on her work.

During this early period of weaving, Correa was occupied with the effects that the process of weaving can produce. She has described her use of this as fundamental to the formation of her designs:

Wherever possible, I tried to make these express the process of weaving itself – as, for instance, the saw-tooth edge formed in switching from one colour to another, found in the traditional weaving of countries as far apart as India, Peru and Mexico. I would take these patterns and abstract them to an unconventional scale – thus imparting a sensuous, floating quality to the colours.
(Correa 2000, pp.37–8.)

In Original Sin this is seen in the fractured curve and vivid pink tones of the large circle, and is also a feature in the sombre brown tones against black in the earlier hanging Mecca 1967 (Museum of Modern Art, New York). These early wall hangings often make reference to religious notions and Correa’s own Christian faith. Correa was also influenced by the geometry of architectural drawings made by her husband Charles Correa and their friends, including architects Philip Johnson and Richard Buckminster Fuller. Johnson later invited Correa to complete a commission for New York’s Four Seasons Restaurant in Mies van der Rohe’s Seagram Building in 1987. Correa produced four wall hangings representing each of the four meteorological seasons; reflecting her growing occupation with subjects of nature, she utilised the inherent abstraction in the weaving process to express natural phenomena and forms.

The artist chose to retain Original Sin in her possession until it was acquired by Tate, indicating its significance for her as an early example of her mature weaving style.

Further reading
Monika Correa, Monika Correa, Mumbai 2000.
Jyotindra Jain, ‘Warp and Weft: New Works by Monika Correa’, in Monika Correa: Meandering Warp, exhibition catalogue, Chemould Prescott Road, Mumbai 2013.
Deepika Sorabjee, ‘A Modern Master, The Indian Quarterly, vol.6, no.4, July/September 2018, pp.57–61.

Priyesh Mistry
April 2019

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