House of Cali: Weaving classics back to life

Updated Oct 25, 2016 11:45am

Replicating the late Abdur Rehman Chugtai’s painting “Man with Sitar” with needles and thread is no mean feat. The needle impressions are so detailed that an onlooker is led into believing that they are prints and not handwork. It's not just Chugtai's work, though, that seems so lifelike. Visitors are compelled to feel the texture of all works seamlessly recreated on cushions to satisfy their curiosity.

Cyra Ali’s exhibition titled, “Museum Collection III” showcases the paintings of several masters of art given a treatment. Ali, embarked upon the project to transform brushstrokes into hand woven impressions after her mother returned home empty-handed from a cushion hunting trip to one of the local markets.

“The purpose of incorporating famous paintings was to give people the exposure to art. I wanted to revive the work of the most renowned artists, both local and foreign,” said the Karachi-based Ali.

With this goal in mind, Ali along with her team of artisans formed the ‘House of Cali’ three years ago. “This word in Urdu (kali) has a stigma attached to it in our society and is usually used to give a negative connotation. I wanted to break this stigma and encourage people to embrace their colour and identity,” said Ali.

The 20-piece display at the exhibition had paintings of Chugtai, Sadequain, Vincent van Gogh, Bashir Mirza, Picasso, Mark Rothko and Gustav Klimt.

“I wanted to showcase the work of Pakistani artists as well, whose work have not been documented enough,” she explains.

The canvas used for the hand embroidery ranges from cotton, silk and suede on the front with varying textures used for the back of the cushions.

Apart from the yearly exhibition, Ali also makes customised cushions through orders online and also takes home appointments.

She has more innovative ideas in the pipeline. “I will be working on chair and sofa makeovers next. Ordinary sofas will be revamped to give a new look altogether.”