a-n Artists Council member Jasleen Kaur lives and works in London. Her practice involves working with sculpture, video and writing, and explores the malleability of culture and the layering of social histories within the material and immaterial things that surround us. Through this, she examines diasporic identity and hierarchies of history, both colonial and personal.

Here she reflects on the last 12 months, with highlights including exhibiting as part of the British Textile biennial, solo shows at Humber Street Gallery, Hull, and Touchstones, Rochdale, and her plans for 2022.

What kind of a year has 2021 been for you?
It’s been overwhelming and exhausting but also exciting as I’ve produced a lot of work this year. All of my commissions, some of which I’ve been working on since 2019 or earlier, were delayed due to the pandemic and scheduled to happen this year when galleries began reopening. Essentially two years of work happened in seven months which was knackering!

However, it was exciting to let go of work I’d been holding through a huge transitional period — the pandemic and becoming a parent. I’m now able to carve out some time to take stock, and decide how I want to work going forward. I know I want to do less better, and have more time to play with new materials and techniques and feel things out in the studio rather than make quick decisions.

Jasleen Kaur, My Body is a Temple of Gloom, 2021; Tranquillity, Wellcome Collection / Steven Pocock, 2021

What has changed for the better?
I’ve learned a lot this year, often through difficult situations — like how I need and want to advocate for myself as an artist, whether that is for myself or for the communities I am invited to work with. I’ve enjoyed playing with space in exhibition making, especially thinking about how I want people to inhabit and feel in those spaces.

For example at ‘Flesh ‘n’ Blood‘ at Humber Street Gallery the work thinks about ancestral lineages and embodiment, so there is rice paper scripture to eat, blessed foods and water to imbibe which was made in collaboration with Priya Jay. Or in ‘Gut Feelings Meri Jaan‘ at Touchstones, Rochdale, you can watch the films whilst sitting in a faux leather massage chair.

Jasleen Kaur, The first thing I did was to kiss the ground, 2021, England’s Creative Coast. Photo: Thierry Bal

What do you wish had happened this year that hadn’t happened?
The Nationality and Borders Bill and the Policing Bill. And of course…Covid in all its ongoing variants.

What would you characterise as your major achievement this year and why?
Having to hold multiple roles at the same time — artist, mother, lecturer, administrator, manager and accountant.

Jasleen Kaur, Sociomobile, 2021, British Textile Biennale. Photo: Christopher Thomond / Guardian

How will this experience have an impact on your own work?
I’m sure being overworked impacts my work negatively at times. I dream of having more time in a bigger studio (who doesn’t) but that’s not feasible for me right now. Being overworked does make me say ‘no’ more and hold stronger boundaries.

Is there anything you’d like to have done but haven’t?
I’d liked to have found an (actually) affordable studio near to where I live.

What are you looking forward to in 2022?
Working slower on less commissions, and taking more pleasure in making my practice.