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Brush with Nostalgia

Questions,logics and perplexities — all these find an expression in visual artist Sarinder Dhaliwal’s work,which spans across paintings,drawings,mixed-media installations and now,a film as well.

Questions,logics and perplexities — all these find an expression in visual artist Sarinder Dhaliwal’s work,which spans across paintings,drawings,mixed-media installations and now,a film as well. Her childhood,her relationship with her mother and with colour are integral influences in her work,admits the Toronto-based artist. Dhaliwal is here for a slideshow of her works and the screening of her first experimental film project,Olive,Almond & Mustard,which examines childhood dissonance located in an immigrant experience.

During the slideshow on Friday,presented by the Canadian Consulate and the Chandigarh Lalit Kala Akademi,Dhaliwal said she tries to revisit her childhood through her art in order to unravel many questions to which her mother offered no answers. “We moved to London when I was all of three,and every time she had to stop me from doing something,she would say ‘we don’t do it’. ‘We’ meant the Sikh community and I wanted a rationale from her,but never got it,” she said.

Dhaliwal then moved to a slide which was like a family tree — nameplates with engravings explaining how the father’s sister is a bua,her husband a phufad and so on. “I got someone who engraves on tombstones to do this and it answered my childhood question on these intricate relationships and why I must address someone in a particular way,’’ pointed out Dhaliwal.

The artist also draws on her personal history of movement — from her birthplace in India to Britain,and later to Canada. This circuit,retraced many times,serves as a conceptual framework for her work. “A painting gives birth to an installation and vice-versa,’’ said Dhaliwal,moving on to an installation with eggs as the main element. “I like collecting stuff — images,newspaper cuttings and then using them in my art,along with text,to decode the elements,” she said,showing a work with images of Ambassador cars in India,turbans of various colours to denote varied communities and curtains with the names of dying languages written on them.

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Going back to the village of her birth in Punjab,said Dhaliwal,added a new dimension to her work — community cooking,people and colours inspired her. Dhaliwal then moved to an installation inspired by the cow-dung cakes she saw in the village,which she has done using paper pulp and straw. “I like this body of work since it can be constructed according to the available space,” she added.

Once again going back to her childhood days,Dhaliwal moved to an installation where she has used as many as 400 colour pencils — each one she has ever owned in her life — to echo her love for colour. “I never asked for toys; just books and colour. So,my installations use colourful and large books,’’ she said,admitting that one of the pleasures of being an artist is one can afford to be whimsical.

First published on: 18-12-2011 at 01:07 IST
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