SPECTRES OF COLONIAL MEMORY
Anoushka Bhalla's practice explores existence through visual research into the materialization of collective trauma and the decay of collective intergenerational memory. Her art, vacillating between the abstract and the representational, is derived from historical archives of ethnic cleansing within the wider global landscape and her homeland of South Asia. Born out of histories of bodily trauma, the loom of death and the spectacle of genocide as seen through memories of ancestral massacres, local and global holocausts, histories of slavery, lynching and other modes of violences, I engage with art-making to contend with the loss of my ancestors who were martyred to these forgotten bloodbaths.
Using symbolically charged, primordial and archaeological elements like terracotta, charcoal, ash, dirt, shellac that symbolise history and the passage of time, the imagery in my work addresses lynching rituals, burial and mortuary practices, landscapes in the wake of destruction and portraits of colonial bodies evoking the collective unconscious of a traumatic past.
Souvenirs of Lynching
Acrylic, terracotta, shellac on canvas; 61'' x 28'' x 8.5''
Derived from historical archives of lynched bodies that hung like flesh from trees, decaying for months and becoming symbols of terror for the colonised and voyeuristic amusement for the colonisers. On close inspection, the minute scars harken to those on whipped bodies of slaves, before the aforementioned death ritual
Madonna holding child
Acrylic, terracotta, shellac on canvas; 47’’ x 24” x 4"
In my paintings, I seek to abstract the human form, with the images being derived from colonial archives. With abstracting these archived brown bodies, I recontextualise the white gaze towards its 'primitive' subjects.
In 'Madonna Holding Child', I reconcile the popular divinal European subject with the people of my homeland. The paint is painstakingly applied in ten or more layers and then going over with a chisel, I excavate into the painting, forming wounds on the body.
An experiment into the materialization of collective trauma, the grief of existence and death experienced through wounds of bygone violences on the body- as lived through ancestral genocides
Rose leaves when the rose is dead, are heaped for the beloved’s bed/ Portraits from the Lost Homeland