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Mukherjee, Mrinalini  

Partha Mitter

(b Bombay, Dec 11, 1949; d New Delhi, Feb 2, 2015).

Indian sculptor and fibre artist. The only daughter of painters Leela and Benode Behari Mukherjee, Mrinalini began her training in mural painting with K. G. Subramanyan at the M. S. University in Baroda, Gujarat, in 1971. The same year she also started to experiment with hemp, which she found more congenial to her interest in material and in creating solid, monumental forms. The unusual power of her sculptures lies in her setting up a dialectical or even paradoxical relationship between the media and the subject-matter, altering the conventional meanings and usages of sculpture and throwing into question the essential nature of a substance. For instance, she has woven monumental sculptures with soft vegetable fibres instead of casting or carving them. Her glazed ceramics give the impression of bronze pieces, while her bronze representations of decaying vegetation evoke qualities and textures not generally associated with such hard substances. In 1971 she began using hemp dyed with deep saturated colours, which she stretched and knotted into ropes, using them to knit and weave her figures. Although not an avowed feminist, her ‘homespun gods’ do convey a feminist message. The softness and plasticity of hemp, more suitable for a woman’s spinning wheel than the ‘manly’ medium of sculpture, belies the power evoked by the mysterious, brooding, over life-size totemic deities, sexually charged ...