12 November 2019 – 2 February 2020
Kettle Yard Cambridge Residency & exhibition
Through photography, sculpture, painting, performance and film, Homelands tells stories of migration and resettlement in South Asia and beyond, as well as violent division and unexpected connections.
The exhibition engages with displacement and the transitory notion of home in a region marked by the repercussions of the Partition of India and Pakistan in 1947, and the independence of Bangladesh in 1971, as well as by contemporary migration. The artists explore intimate and political histories, often contesting borders, questioning common pasts and imagining new futures.
The exhibition includes many new works and works being shown in the UK for the first time by Sohrab Hura, Yasmin Jahan Nupur, Seher Shah, Iftikhar Dadi & Elizabeth Dadi and Munem Wasif, as well as a commission by Desmond Lazaro working with communities in North Cambridge and a performance by Nikhil Chopra on 3 December. There is a symposium exploring themes of the exhibition on 18 January.
Curated by Devika Singh with Amy Tobin and Grace Storey.
A new publication with contributions by Nancy Adajania, Homi K. Bhabha and each of the artists accompanies the exhibition.
U.S.A. Texas. 2017.
Asarun Nessa , Father Mohammod Ali.
Art Gallery of New South Wales
. . . in one drop of water are found the secrets of all the endless oceans.
― Kahlil Gibran
Drawing on rich and diverse works of art, primarily from the Gallery’s collection, this exhibition explores the poetic, symbolic and social significance of water in Asian art.
In one drop of water is divided into four main themes: ‘Migration and movements’ looks at the ideas of relocation and people travelling over water to find new lands or new homes; ‘Oceans’ considers both the visual power of water and its role in economic survival; ‘Rivers and streams’ addresses stories about rivers and their systems, which have significantly changed in the modern era; and ‘Life in water’ explores the natural world.
The exhibition features historical ceramics, paintings, lacquer and woodblock prints from across Asia alongside contemporary works.
Contemporary artists in the exhibition include Sojung Jun (South Korea, b1982) whose work is presented with the support of the Korea Cultural Centre Australia; Desmond Lazaro (UK/India, b1968), who is creating a newly commissioned painting; Khadim Ali (Pakistan/Australia, b1978); Monira Al Qadiri (Senegal/Kuwait, b1983); Fang Lijun (China, b1963); Guan Wei (China/Australia; b1957); Khvay Samnang (Cambodia, b1982); Michiko Kon (Japan, b1955) and Julian Opie (UK, b1958).
The Sea of Untold Stories II
A Commission by The Art Gallery of New South Wales for the exhibition ‘In one drop of water’ June 2019
In many ways this new work is really about grief, having lost my mum earlier this year.
In the first version, ‘Sea of Untold Stories I’ (2017), I had gathered information from the Missing Migrant Project, a website that collects data about migrant movements worldwide. Many who die (on route) remain nameless, as they are often found without official papers, recently the website suggested that as many as six people die per day in the Mediterranean Sea alone. I had made a series of stamps describing the circumstance of death, Suffocation, Drowning, etc as they appear within the M.M.P statistical data. The words were pressed into the canvas suggesting a defiant memorial.
In this new work ‘Sea of Untold Stories II’, the indigo surface, pure blue, seems to go on forever, requiring a different treatment. Hence the golden sea, where each individual wave, a brush stroke, is a painted meditation, a meditation on grief, loss, having to face what it actually feels like to lose someone, be it a nameless migrant or family member.
The Shamsa (sunburst) at the centre emulates a symbol on the passport of my grandfather used for his journey from Burma (now Myanmar) to London in the 1950s. The motif is also often found in the pages of the Koran.
I think of the people (we call migrants) crossing oceans, deserts and continents, seeking a better life, much like my grandfather, with only the fixed stars to guide. This ancient navigational practice that has given birth to the modern world, questioned in previous works ‘The Dymaxion Map’ (Dhaka Art Summit 2018), where I had charted the sea voyages of, Vasco de Gama, Cristoforo Colombo, Fernao de Magalhaes and James Cook – explorers who, followed their Arab, and African predecessors, instigating modern global trade routes.
A recent work Dunhuang Star Atlas (Basel, Hong Kong, 2019) recalls the southern constellations that would guide the caravans of the ancient Silk Road.
The ‘Sea of Untold Stories II’ takes this investigation further with the well-known miniature painting (circ 1840) entitled ‘The Jewel of the Essence of all Science’. A manuscript (held in the British Library) synthesising astronomy from the Hindu, Islamic and Europeans traditions.
Having trained as a miniature painter in Jaipur Rajasthan I was naturally drawn to this image, particularly the maritime significance of Carina (The Keel of the Argo Navis).
Until the 20th century, this was the largest constellation known, later divided into three smaller constellations Carina, Puppis & Vela. Argo is the name of the ship, in the Greek myth of Jason and the Argonauts who sailed to Colchis in search of the Golden fleece. The constellation is surrounded by Pegasus (winged horse), Equules (the little horse), Sagittarius (the Archer), Hydra (the Water Serpent), Centarus (the centaur), Hercules (the strong man), Canis Minor (the small dog). Each are presented in the work, alongside the four animal guardians of Chinese Astronomy known as ‘Pinyin’ (meaning ‘four images’): The White Tiger (West), Vermillion Bird (South), Azure Dragon (East) & Black Turtle (North).
The figures below, some carrying suitcases and plastic bags, steadily transcends this world, gradually morphing into stars. Grief of unimaginable loss is turned into the light of transcendental hope.