Museum of Contemporary Art, purchased with funds provided by the Coe and Mordant families and Bernard Shafer in memory of Anna Shafer, 2010
nylon organza, cotton thread, glass beads
This diaphanous installation – a series of suspended opalescent organza panels by the Melbourne-based artist Sangeeta Sandrasegar – is emblematic of the artist’s preoccupation with the challenges of cultural difference in the context of diaspora.
On close inspection, some of the panels reveal depictions of Australian floral motifs rendered in delicate embroidery. The flowers adorn dimly traced feet in the manner of henna decoration of hands and feet of women on the subcontinent. The feet and legs float in mid-air, adrift from the rest of a body which is absent. On other panels the outlines of Australian trees can be seen; and on one, the ripples of sand and sea. The artist has commented that for her the panels ‘evoke the colours of this country… [in] the ghost-like softness of certain hours…’.
The title is taken from a poem by the English Romantic poet John Keats (1795-1821). The artist also drew inspiration from William Butler Yeats’ (1865-1939) poem ‘He wishes for the cloths of heaven’ (1). In Sandrasegar’s work, the juxtaposition of materials and techniques associated with traditional female pursuits, together with the ambivalence implied by the title, results in a poetic reflection on place and the vulnerabilities that can be experienced by women at a time of increased global migration.
(1) 'He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven’ was published in 1899 in Yates’ third volume of poetry, The Wind Among the Reeds.
“Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.”
In a way … [this work] is about love – the ties that bind – yearning and obligation, to place and to people.
Sangeeta Sandrasegar, 2010