Permindar Kaur creates sculptures and installations exploring domestic spaces and objects, often reminiscent of a darker take on childhood experiences and memory.
The show ends on 1 July with a closing party and catalogue launch. See here for details.
Here’s our artist Q&A:
What are you doing today?
I’m working in the studio. I try to be as efficient and productive as possible as my work is very much studio based. I enjoy the process of making and playing with materials, working out ideas through making.
Tell us about your creative process.
It’s a mixture of working intuitively and with concepts: I try and spend part of the day drawing and exploring ideas in my sketchbook, and then to realize them in the studio. With the smaller works, once there is a sketch that works visually, I can go straight to making it, whilst working out which materials to use and the overall size of the object. If the object is made out of, or contains metal I initially make a version in cardboard to make sure I’m happy with the proportions. Other times I start working on an object where there is something that I like in a sketch, but the idea isn’t fully developed. It may take weeks or a few months to work out how to finish it. If the work is site specific then I first visit the site and research anything I can find out about the location. Often on site I usually get a good idea of what I want to make.
Describe where you do most of your creative work.
Most ideas start in the sketchbook, which I always carry with me. I then realize some of those ideas in the studio.
What’s the most exciting project you’ve worked on?
My favourite assignments are site specific. This includes works such as Tower, 2014 sited outside the Spirella Building in Letchworth, as part of the Vision of Utopia exhibition. Here I built a large and freestanding stacked tower of steel chairs. The chairs decrease in size, as the tower rise. It is suggestive of the people that make up a community and contribute to its growth, development and change. It is about the need to conform to fit in.
Or, in earlier projects such as B.B.C Billboard Art Project, 1992 where I attached large copper speakers to two billboards facing each other over a busy street in Glasgow. The symbols underneath and around the speakers highlighting an unknown private conversation in a very public space.
What made you decide to become an artist?
I was always good at drawing and making things so it felt like a natural path to follow. I studied Fine Art at Sheffield Polytechinic in the 80’s before completing an M.A at Galsgow school of Art in 1992. It was only after having children that I fully understood why I became an artist.
What are you currently working on?
I have two or three lines of ideas that I develop, but I haven’t decided which one I will start to realize. I find it exciting when I have multiple ideas in my sketchbook that I could make.
What are the key themes in your work?
The work always seems to be about childhood, but not necessarily my own. Cultural identity is always there in the background as I’m a second generation British/ Sikh. Sometimes, as in earlier works, it directly informs the concept, while in more recent works I explore themes more relevant to me at the time of making.
I like to play with size and scale: In the recent show Black and Blue (2017) at the New Art Projects gallery in London the black teddies come in four distinct sizes. Our relationship to them changes from feeling protective of the small bears on the small chairs to being wary and unsettled by the larger ones.
What would you like people to notice in your work?
I make objects that are easily recognisable from teddies, chairs, beds and tables. The simplicity and childlike nature of the works allows the viewer to easily relate to them in an intimate but profound way. I have remade and subtly changed everyday objects by hand: Making the teddies black; Or the table legs have pointed sharp ends; Or beds that are so tall that they no longer are a safe place to sleep in. The viewer then has to try and figure out the new identities of the objects.
The black teddies in my most recent work often elicit questions: What do they mean to me – As their forms do not coincide with that of the viewers memories.
What attracts you to the mediums you work in?
I like making large objects in big site-specific installations. Many times this involves working with materials that have opposing qualities such as: copper and fabric; glass and clay; or steel and wood. The aim is to join the materials as seamlessly as possible so as to appear naturally merged. In We Are All Animals, (2010) the hard copper claws and horns poke out of the soft polar fleece fabric. The claws seem to offer little protection, instead the figure hangs limply weighted down by the heavy claws. The figure is weakened but still dangerous.
What equipment could you not do without?
A sewing machine and welding kit.
Who or what inspires you?
I’m inspired by many artists – Leonora Carrington, Louise Bourgeois, Jannis Kounellis, Mike Kelly, David Hammons to name but a few. But the list is always both growing and changing.
How does gender affect your work?
When I was a student in the 80’s at Sheffield Polytechnic I tried to find out if there were any other Sikh women artists, but I couldn’t find any at the time. There was minimal information available about a few Indian women artists in catalogues or art magazines. On a visit to India I found out about the work of Mrinalini Mukherjee. I loved her sculptures made from knotted hemp ropes.
I initially started working with steel, wood, paper, clay and copper before starting to incorporate fabric. I was aware that if I only worked with fabric it could be seen as too much like craft or a female way of working. I am as interested in welding as I am in sewing. They are both different, but important methods of construction.
Gender does play a part, more so after having children.
What’s your favourite gallery, or place to see or experience art?
I don’t have a favourite gallery or place. It could be anywhere that shows contemporary art.
If you could own one piece of art, what would it be and why?
There would be so much I’d like to own and most of it wouldn’t fit in a house.
What’s your favourite colour