To kickstart 2024's Cultural Comms 'Artist Spotlight' series, we speak with sculptor and installation artist Permindar Kaur, who's currently appearing in
Saatchi Gallery's IF NOT NOW, WHEN? exhibition - a celebration of works by 29 incredible female sculptors.
Read on for more about Permindar, and see her work Independence (1998) in London's Saatchi Gallery, until 22 January.
Permindar's approach to art is playful, using childlike objects to explore the territories of cultural identity, home and belonging. She uses simple forms, such as furniture (beds, cots and chairs) and toys (soft, brightly coloured figures, trucks and animal forms). They are deceptively familiar in their appearance and initially might remind the viewer of innocence, childhood and play, belying their sinister undertones.
Can you tell us about your work currently being exhibited in IF NOT NOW, WHEN?
The work on show is Independence, 1998. This was jointly commissioned by Juginder Lamba, Brian Briggs and Nottingham Castle & Art Museum to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Indian Independence. In my work there is often a playful and disturbing element. I wanted to make a work which could be read on both a political and a personal level, relating to the idea of a martyr.
In Independence (1998) there are 27 figures made from a soft polar fleece. They’re unstuffed, so they hang limply, and they wear heavy copper boots and helmets that weigh them down. Armour is never made from copper because it’s too soft and heavy. Further to their plight they are then impaled against the wall by long copper spears. They are the remains of an army defeated in an unknown battle.
What inspires your work?
Each work has its own set of events, influences and origins. The work in this show is a response to the theme of Indian independence, a major historical event. During independence the Punjab (where my family is from) was split in two, the western portion becoming part of Pakistan. Fifteen million people were displaced and one million people died.
Through my research I came to understand the history and then considered how it related to me. I decided to look at not only the theme of Indian independence, but the fight for Sikh independence (Khalistan) and independence on a more personal level.
I wanted the work to reflect that independence came at a cost.
In another work, Tall Beds 1996, I was inspired by a phase I went through of falling out of bed.
This led me to make distorted three-metre-high beds. The work was about subverting the comforting associations of falling asleep; was it safe to sleep in such high beds? It was about undoing one of many notions of what ‘home’ represents.
Are there any other objects or artworks you’ve particularly enjoyed seeing during the exhibition?
I've enjoyed seeing all the work in the show, in particular Helen Chadwick, Phyllida Barlow, Veronica Ryan, Sokari Douglas Camp and Freddie Robins, to name a few. The work looks great in this expanded form.
What trends do you see emerging in the arts in 2024?
Rather than trends, I’d like 2024 to see sculpture given more prominence. It's a difficult media to work in due to the cost of materials and storage, and this show highlights the importance of women sculptors.
If you weren't an artist, you'd be...
I’ve only ever wanted to be an artist. I can’t imagine being anything else.
Other than a phone and keys, what's the one item you always have on you?
I generally always have a pencil and a notepad on me.
How do you relax when you're not working?
I like to go for long walks.
What's your favourite-ever piece of art [either that you own or wished you owned!]?
There are too many to mention. I’d prefer if art was kept in museums for everyone to see.
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