The themes of this exhibition concern the mobility of ornament between Britain and South Asia in both colonial and post colonial times in Britain. To convey some of this, the exhibition exploits ideas of framing. Frames isolate the thing framed, and speak of its status. Even buildings can act as â??framesâ?? for the work or people or things within. In an earlier post I discussed this in relation to the Royal Geographical Society and its ‘framed’ location near the Albert Hall, Albert Memorial, the great museums – Prince Albertâ??s knowledge-base.
This exhibition sets out to question, through the use of collage and juxtaposition, the effect of such authoritative framing. Houses, shops and museums might conventionally be considered to be structures which â??frameâ?? their contents – but they would not exist without their contents, which surge through them, a moving, vital, escaping flow. Perhaps it is in the nature of frames to be contested. In this example from the ‘Moving Patterns’ exhibition at the Royal Geographical Society, a traditional nineteenth century British house acts as a frame for the lives of its twenty-first century inhabitants of South Asian origin; but a small row of photographs of such houses are in turn framed in medallion shapes derived from an Asian rug: making this work, I realised that where one locates any frame depends on one’s point of view. The pillars in RGS Pavilion, on which the images are fixed, offer yet another layer of framing, as does the greenery of Exhibition Road, SW7, beyond, to the RGS itself.
The exhibition also places unlike things in close proximity. For example, there are groups of carrier bags (used in the show because they are so suggestive of shops, purchases, consumption), placed on the wooden pallets which speak of the transportation of goods across the world. The bags, decorated by very different artists, do not form a homogeneous group; but in their very contrasts they do speak to each other. During the course of the show, the pallets on which they stand have come to seem to me to be like rafts on which very different kinds of things co-exist, not melding with each other but not denying each other either: rather, quietly sharing the space. (The bags on this pallet are by Sumi Perera, Samar Abbas and Helen Scalway).
At the far end of the gallery at the Royal Geographical Society, the installation changes to suggest a miniature museum; but more of that in my next post. The work below was contributed by guest artists Anjana Patel, Nilesh Mistry, Samar Abbas, Sumi Perera, Nagat El-Mahi, Jagmohan Bangani and Punam Sharma. Anjana Patel exploited multiple layers of cutting to create a bag on the theme of the veiled bride, the veiled space.
Anjana Patel 2009, Bridal carrier bag: front, back, and interior detail:
Nilesh Mistry worked on the theme ‘India Loves Gold’.
Nilesh 2008: Golden Trainer’ bag, front and back, and ‘Mobile Tartan’ bag:
Sumi Perera used laser cutting techniques for her bags . The cut-out pieces form a suggestion of continents as themselves light and mobile. Sumi Perera, 2009, ‘Journeys’ carrier bag, ‘Continent Confetti’ and Luggage labels:
Samar Abbas is a product designer who presented his edgy work in the form of canvas printed bags. Samar Abbas, 2008, Designs for carrier bags. ‘Circling Coppers’:
The remaining images come from artists who submitted works on paper to the exhibition. Here are some of Nagat El-Mahi’s designs for a Sudanese sari, a ‘toab’. Nagat has moved in the last few years to London from Sudan and her work incorporates suggestions of the wavy lines of the Swiss Re ‘Gherkin’ in London, the cobra, and dome-forms which are common to both church and mosque architecture; the colouring is traditional to the Sudanese toab. These designs were originally produced for ‘The British Sari Story’ run by the arts consultancy, Bridging Arts www.bridging-arts.com but are included here as being of great interest in this context also.
Nagat El-Mahi, 2007, ‘Designs for a British Sari’ Another artist, Punam Sharma, contributed works evoking the elusiveness of her memories of home when she was far away in the UK, using thin layers of paper pulp – interesting in the light of India’s long paper recycling tradition: Punam Sharma, 2008, ‘Memories’
Jagmohan Bangani saiys that his work was inspired by his memories of his distant village and that he has chanted the mantras which were an every day part of his village life on to his canvas ‘with the help of my brushes and my colours’. Jagmohan Bangani, 2008 ‘Memories’: