A brush with… Nalini Malani

Nalini Malani talks to Ben Luke, about her influences—from writers to musicians, film-makers and, of course, other artists—and the cultural experiences that have shaped her life and work. Malani was born in Karachi in 1946 and lives and works today in Mumbai. Her work in drawing and painting, performance, video and installation, responds to contemporary politics and human rights issues through the language of ancient myths, of poets, writers and thinkers, and of the history of art. She is increasingly celebrated for her installations that she calls “animation chambers”, fusing video and drawings, text and voice. They engulf the viewer in environments that contain endlessly shifting sequences of imagery and stirring soundtracks—a call to action in terms of both their political and cultural content. She discusses her early and enduring admiration of Indian Kalighat painting, how Louise Bourgeois’ reflections on memory are a consistent inspiration, why she has repeatedly returned to Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland, and about the pivotal period she spent in Paris between 1970 and 1972, meeting many leading intellectuals and artists. Plus she gives insight into her life in the studio and answers our usual questions, including “what is art for?”

Nalini Malani: Can You Hear Me? and Ballad of a Woman, Concrete, Dubai, in collaboration with Volte Art Projects, 25 February-3 March; Nalini Malani: The Pain of Others 1966-1979, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS)/Jehangir Nicholson Art Gallery, Mumbai, India, 1 August-5 November; Ambienti 1956-2010: Environments by Women Artists II, MAXXI, Rome, 9 April-6 October; Nalini Malani: In Search of Vanished Blood, collection display, Tate Modern, London, 13 December 2024-September 2025.

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