Chila Kumari Singh Burman (New Year's Special Episode)
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!! TALK ART CONTINUES!!! Russell & Robert meet iconic British artist Dr Chila Kumari Singh Burman who has recently transformed the front of Tate Britain into a celebration of bright lights and swirling colour for their annual Winter Commission. This extraordinary work has brought much needed joy to Londoners during the recent lockdown, due to its outdoors location on Tate's Millbank façade.
Since the late-1970s, Burman has explored the experiences and aesthetics of Asian femininity in paintings and installations, photography and printmaking, video and film. In more recent works, this theme has taken on a new power and vibrancy. Challenging stereotypical assumptions of Asian women, her work is informed by popular culture, Bollywood, fashion, found objects, the politics of femininity, the celebration of feminity; self-portraiture exploring the production of her own sexuality and dynamism; the relationship between popular culture and high art; gender and identity politics.
Her magnificent current Tate Britain installation, "Remembering A Brave New World", combines Hindu mythology, Bollywood imagery, colonial history and personal memories. Inspired by the artist’s childhood visits to the Blackpool illuminations and her family’s ice-cream van, Burman covers the façade of Tate Britain with vinyl, bling and lights. She changes the figure of Britannia, a symbol of British imperialism, into Kali, the Hindu goddess of liberation and power. The many illuminated deities, shapes and words are joined by Lakshmibai, the Rani (queen) of Jhansi. Lakshmibai was a fierce female warrior in India’s resistance to British colonial rule in the 19th century.
Burman is celebrated internationally for her radical feminist practice, spanning printmaking, drawing, painting, installation and film. Her Punjabi and Liverpudlian heritage enrich her self-expressive work. Burman mashes up stereotypes to create new identities, beyond the limitations imposed on South Asian women in a British cultural context. The commission opened to coincide Diwali, the Festival of Light. It is a celebration of new beginnings, the triumph of good over evil, light over darkness. "Remembering A Brave New World" takes inspiration from the luminous struggles and victories of the past to offer hope for a brighter future.
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