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SPECTRES OF COLONIAL MEMORY

 

My practice explores existence through visual research into the materialization of collective trauma and the decay of collective intergenerational memory. My art, vacillating between the abstract and the representational, is derived from historical archives of the colonized people and sites of ethnic cleansing in my homeland of India and within the wider global landscape. 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 colonial violences, I engage with art-making to contend with the loss of my family and 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'';  2022

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";   2022

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

 

Memories of a Lost Homeland
Charcoal and Terracotta on canvas;   49”x45”x4 (119 x 61 cm);   2022

My practice vacillates between the abstract and the representational, and is derived from historical archives of the colonized people and sites of ethnic cleansing. This image is derived from the India-Pakistan partition, a site of 2 million deaths.

The collective memories of these sites of trauma passed down ancestrally now enter the realm of forgetting and decay. The terracotta- a primordial and archaeological element- symbolises history, time and the earth- into which the dead departed