Jose Sanint at Salomon Arts Gallery

by India Nicholas, December 2011

Jose Sanint is not an artist. Or, at least, he doesn’t think of himself as one. That remains off his resume. He prefers to be called a creator.

The young Colombian, a former Bogota-based architect, celebrated his debut collection of tapestries, Through the Silence, on November 16 at the Salomon Arts Gallery in New York City. At the opening, one was greeted by a doorman in traditional Nepali garb and served by a bartender decked in a rainbow of Tibetan bangles and jewels. In a corner sat a projection screen, showing slowly alternating slides of a rustic village of mud huts and large fir trees. Every other wall of the small gallery was covered with color; deep purples in Magic Eye designs, circular stitches in sunset hues, triangles and diamonds jutting up and out like Himalayan peaks.

Featuring a dozen thickly woven tapestries created from a patchwork pile of vintage Tibetan clothing, Sanint’s hangings range from bright and geometric to subdued and linear. Some, like the largest and loudest, entitled Peacock With Jewelry, hang horizontally, almost eight feet long, with layers of fabric stitched into overlapping diamond shapes. Others, such as Indigo Blue, are presented vertically, and encompass a dark, methodical mood one could imagine adopting after weeks of weaving nothing but navy. But within the collection, there is an overall sense of allusive unity. What is it besides the shapes and textures that brings about the feeling of togetherness? Perhaps it is the story accompanying it.

Sanint’s creation process for the tapestries did not begin in the studio. In 2010, the avid traveler adventured on a trip to Asia, first to India, then to China, from which he crossed in to the forbidden territory of Tibet. There, Sanint was accepted in to a small community of farmers and gatherers and began the process of learning how to weave.

After a particularly intense vipassana meditation course, Sanint was inspired to take a vow of silence. Learning and working in complete and utter silence for an astounding 108 days, Sanint began to understand the value of his own voice and the importance of when and how to use it. Without it, his mind was “more open to the worldly inspirations, more aware [of] Mother Earth and the environment [and the] natural collection, pigments and process” of Tibetan creation methods. This became a crucial point in Sanint’s creative time; the process was indeed an all-encompassing natural experience. Believing the wool from yaks and mountain goats are, in fact, from reincarnations of loved ones, Tibetans do not shave or shear their animals but rather collect the shed hair during summer months. Collecting the small puffs of fur off the steep grazing sites took long, hard days of low-bending gathering. Dying said fur is done with pigments gathered from local flora via age-old methods. These yarns are then woven, by hand, into ceremonial dresses created for meetings with Buddhist monks and llamas. It is with these antique fabrics—collected from old or discarded clothing—that Sanint makes his tapestries.

The pieces, though abstract, exude an understanding of the inspiration even before you read the often literal titles. Mountains shows pointed peaks in violet hues while snow capped points reach at a deep blue line of sky. The more elusive Tantric Ritual Objects Inside Lotus Flower Frame depicts a deeply detailed design of triangles and arrows growing in to an open bloom. But regardless of subject matter, Sanint’s intentions are what make the art interesting. The proceeds of his art will go to the newly founded Akrabhala Foundation, Sanint’s charity that will build a workspace and provide materials and export services to Tibetans in the very village where he discovered his artistic intent.

Jose Sanint: Through the Silence
17 November—16 December 2011
Salomon Arts Gallery
83 Leonard Street, Fourth Floor
New York