Airspace Art Gallery
West Midlands

“home” is the latest exhibition to feature at Airspace gallery in Stoke-on-Trent. Kashif Nadim Chaudry, Samit Das, Chinmoyi Patel, Hetain Patel and Harminder Singh Judge explore their identities as well as their cultural and traditional heritage through their individual creative practice. With each artist being connected to Asian descent, “home” highlights the theme of personal identity and development when being associated to multiple cultures and the boundaries and opportunities that can be presented as a result.

Kashif Nadim Chaudry displays strong influences from his family history of tailoring and trade, this being seen through the use of materials in his work as well as the techniques employed to create them. ‘Sanctuary’ is a sculpture piece which clearly defines the artist’s interest in Islam and the architecture that is also associated with religious areas of Asia. Wood and cotton are beautifully combined to create a piece which demonstrates gothic and Islamic architecture as well as demonstrating his personal experiences of travelling, religion and traditional textiles. Even though the sculpture stands approximately 100cm tall, the grandness and importance of the monolithic structures in this piece is apparent. This relates to the artist’s strong religious upbringing and the level of importance this poses in his life. The cotton has been carefully dyed burgundy and presented carefully to create a flowing draping effect around the four main structures. With this particular colour symbolising purity in India, this only emphasises the religious references contained within the piece. The elegance of the draping cotton is also further accentuated through the use of this particular tone and helps to suggest movement, possibly linking to the artist’s experience with travelling or even suggesting the influence that religion has over people and how this flows throughout their day to day lives. ‘Enter’ is a textile piece created from machine tufted wool and synthetic fibres. With the artist’s family having a successive tailoring background, the importance of selected materials and how they are used are clearly important and something the artist feels he wants to carry on in his own work. You are enticed to explore the varying textures of the materials and the change in shape, colour and texture, especially towards the centre of the piece, only encourages this further. This could link with the artist’s drive to explore his culture and identity as well as the areas from where this originated from.

Samit Das challenges the ideas of development and growth within our cities and societies. The term ‘developed’ suggests the sense of being at the cutting edge or having made a successful transition from one stage to the next. Das demonstrates what impact development and growth has upon our surroundings and therefore affecting our lives. Multilayered and focusing strongly on architecture, Samit Das’s work incorporates collage and laser engraving techniques, and could even be considered sculptural as some pieces are three dimensional due to the layering process that is used. Images of buildings and architecture are numerously layered creating a dynamic expansion across the surface of the piece mimicking the movements of construction in cities such as Bombay and Delhi. Das plays with the idea of the new waves of development consuming the old and traditional. With the constant drive for capital gain and expansion, Das highlights how we could be creating our own downfall through the motion of continually striving for more. His work can appear apocalyptic and this is clear in a photographic piece entitled ‘Goddess’, where what appears to be a sculpture of a Hindu goddess is left smashed on the ground surrounded by rubble. Whether this relates to the infrastructure of Asia, or how religion has been adapted to meet people’s needs in a new society is debatable and could even refer to both. However what is clear is the emphasis on fast change and how constant development does not remove all traces of what was there before. It questions whether this trend in development is just a spurt or whether people no longer feel attached and precious towards their traditions and heritage despite being seen as valuable for such considerable time.

Chinmoyi Patel presents a sound installation piece entitled ‘B.P & S.P’. A section of wall is painted in vibrant orange creating a sense of warmth and comfort. As you begin to listen to the piece through headphones you begin to hear the artist’s voice as you look at the orange space and a multitude of stories unfold. Chinmoyi Patel is interested in exploring her identity and culture and she does this by taking snippets from reality and adapting them into a fantasy world of storytelling. The story which unfolds is told in sections of no particular order, and as the story progresses each section of the story becomes clearer as you relate to what has been described earlier in the piece. Chinmoyi Patel obviously feels strong about her sense of reality and where she feels she fits into this through how she projects herself. The use of orange that covers the wall, helps to create the warmth that she installs in her stories, but orange can also be symbolised with courage and this is something the artist may be familiar with when asserting her identity and exploring reality through her storytelling. The piece is very descriptive and they way in which the piece is voiced helps deliver a broader understanding allowing a range of people to relate to what they are hearing. Even though Indian culture is at the heart of the piece, themes such as family, relationships, childhood and memories are explored. The change in pitch and pace of the voice telling the story helps to capture your attention and it does give a sense of an adult reading to a child at times, which only adds to the feeling of warmth and exploration of past times. The piece is sympathetic and sophisticated in its approach and gives a glimpse into the artist’s mind and life which she has been exploring.

Hetain Patel presents a split-screen film entitled ‘To Dance Like Your Dad’. One thing that is evident from this piece is the artist’s attention to detail and the precise nature in which he undergoes his work. The film consists of a split-screen, the artist’s dad on the left and the artist himself on the right. What starts as a simple idea for a film piece has been developed beautifully by the artist to create a complex and very engaging short film. On the left you see Patel’s father begin to explain what his employment involves and he gives a tour of the work premise and machinery which he uses. On the right you see the artist mimic perfectly each movement and spoken word from his father, emphasising the title and the pressure that may be upon the son of the family to follow in his father’s footsteps. Again this is a piece which explores identity and what impact being associated to multiple cultures can have on an individual. The preparation for this piece has clearly paid off and this film only works as well as it does due to the artist’s high standards. The space which the artist has used to mimic his father’s movements, has been calculated precisely so that he can walk the same number of steps, turn and move in the same way without being confronted with a wall or obstacle or even having to compromise movements due to having a lack of space. For anyone that is interested in art that requires a precise methodical approach, I would strongly recommend seeing this film so that you can appreciate the artist’s efforts fully. Overall it is a strong piece and Hetain Patel is one to look out for in the future.

Harminder Singh-Judge includes a sculpture piece in the “home” exhibition entitled ‘Madonna & Child’. The sculpture consists of an ape cradling a baby ape with a white neon circle surrounding them. Controversial in its content and with the use of this particular title, Harminder Singh-Judge is clear to make a point and not be afraid at stating it with volume. Madonna and Child are normally seen as pictorial representations of Mary with the infant Jesus. Mary being seated and seen holding the baby Jesus is a typical representation produced during the 15th Century in Florence where Roman Catholicism is still strongly followed today. Where Roman Catholicism focuses on spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, here the artist presents us with Darwinism and challenges the idea of religion and how it shapes society. Representations during the 15th Century of this nature where usually symbolised with the Passion of Christ emphasising the suffering both physical and mental that Christ endured. The fact that the artist chose this particular representation of Mary and the infant Jesus, may be linked to the connections of the Jesus suffering and highlights how we as people are in fact suffering and have no God to turn to as a saviour. It tackles ideas of existential nihilism and plays with notions of meaning and purpose. This could be a revelation from the artist that we are not dictated by religion, but we are in fact responsible for our own lives and should act in accordance. It is clear that the artist wishes to raise questions over aspects of people’s lives that give them comfort and challenge their views. This piece has been created through a process of the artist questioning his identity, heritage and personal experiences of different cultures and gives insight into the struggles which can occur from being linked to a strong religious background.

This exhibition successfully entices the viewer to sample pieces of the artist’s personal experiences of life, personal development and fitting into a particular society or culture whilst remaining sympathetic towards others. The selection of works in this exhibition allows the viewer to see different perspectives and understanding towards Asian culture without it being presented in a biased manner. For those looking to challenge their views, or gain a better understanding of Asian culture and identity, this exhibition is a must see and notable as being one of Airspace’s best exhibitions.

By Stacey Booth