Karchung / BTP
about the artist
The Bhutanese Textile Project is a cooperative of 15 master embroiderers from Bhutan, the remote Himayalan kingdom nestled between India, China and Tibet. Overseeing the collective is Karchung, the artist who is the draughtsman for all the intricate drawings that are eventually woven into embroideries. One of the finest practitioners in the country, Karchung has worked exclusively for the Royal Family for many years. Building upon his training in and mastering of traditional compositions, he then innovates and arrives at a modern adaptation. Blessed with a superlative ability to unite so many motifs, patterns, figures and symbols in one single composition, Karchung perpetuates as well as extends a beloved art form into the contemporary. Embroidered textiles from Bhutan, while intricate in detail, traditionally leave exposed areas of colorful cloth. Karchung, however, fill these gaps, cramming them with shape-shifting multi-colored characters from Bhutanese narratives, American cartoons and Japanese anime, local fauna, flora and architecture, as well as mobile phones, jumbo jets and computers. Collaborating with the BTP in the assignment and combination of colors, he continues to produce unique and beautiful designs executed in impeccable craftsmanship.
Perched atop the world’s tallest and most sacred mountain range, Bhutan—also known as Druk Yul, or “Land of the Thunder Dragon”—is renowned for its handmade textiles, which are regarded as the highest form of art and spiritual expression. Bhutanese designs are also considered some of the most intricate and sophisticated in the world. With methods and technologies passed down through countless generations of matriarchal and Buddhist Lama lineages, their craft is unique in the history of textile art. Functionally, Bhutanese textiles serve as a cultural repository and still play a critical role in all religious, official and social events. Parallels have been drawn between The Bhutanese Textile Project and the work of Takashi Murakami whose practice continually reinterprets Japanese visual culture in the 21st century. The Tutto tapestries of the late Italian conceptual artist Alighiero Boetti, are also resonant with connections.