Founded by public arts organisation The Artichoke Trust and artist Martin Firrell, The Gallery is a new kind of cultural institution: one without walls.
Twice a year, with seasons that explore topical, sometimes polemic subjects, The Gallery brings thought-provoking art to everyone, by placing it on sites usually reserved for advertising.
Season Three of the project asks artists to respond to the question, ‘No but Where Are You Really From?’ and, as its curator, I’m not just very proud of the body of work we’ve brought together, but also of the diversity of the people who have created that work. Our 11artists hail from four continents, with six being either based in Asia, or ofAsian or mixed heritage.
It’s these six artists and their works for The Gallery that I’d like to introduce to you...
Jaipur based photographer and filmmaker Amit Sihag comes from an agricultural background in the state of Punjab. He grew up documenting life in villages, around cattle, fields, farmers and all else that comprises rural life. Although Sihag is widely recognised for his work in fashion, which regularly appears in glossy magazines such as Vogue India, for The Gallery he has gone back to his roots, with a piece, entitled JUST US!.
InJUST US!, Amit uses exaggerated and brightly-coloured tribal masks to draw attention to the often-faceless Indian Agrarian community, and thereby to their struggle. His work celebrates resilience, commitment, tenacity, and fortitude.
Azraa Motala is a visual artist from Preston, currently based between the Northwest and the Midlands. Through large-scale oil paintings, photography, poetry, and video, she explores the lived experiences of British South Asian women, including notions of identity, belonging, culture, and heritage within the contemporary Western space.
Azraa’s powerful self-portrait Brit-ish, is an intimate visual representation of the artist’s complex relationship with her South-Asian and British identity. It references a time she spent living in the South Lakes – a rural environment of the kind that can sometimes feel isolating to people of colour, and in which they are rarely portrayed. Each component of the piece plays on the viewer’s perception of what belongs and what does not.
Fiona McBennett is an Irish-Japanese visual artist based in London. Her work explores the complex relationship between identity and social standards through self-portraiture. In her projects, she often delves into topics such as nostalgia and cultural dysphoria, as a way to connect with her own identity.
Fiona has been asked where she’s really from her whole life. In response she has created a work that explores the feeling of rootlessness this question can inspire - relinquishing her visual identity to AI and asking it to morph her face with the ‘Miss Average’ faces of all the countries that people have guessed they are from. So...Where Are You Really From both pokes fun atSeason 3’s question, and represents the pressure she has felt to assimilate.
op.x is a South London guerrilla artist of mixed English and Filipino Heritage who primarily works with space, words, and graphics. He is committed to making art accessible to all and works predominantly in public spaces to create playful and disruptive spontaneous installations that challenge our relationship with space. Often integrating humour, op.x’s mischievous spirit injects a much-needed dose of levity into the daily grind of life.
op.x often produces work using found objects and every day, affordable and accessible materials, in part to show that you don’t need a huge budget or fine tools to create art or make an impact. For The Gallery, the artist has playfully hacked the St George's Cross using fragile tape. The English flag is typically associated with national pride, courage and strength, however, op.x’s recreation questions this symbol and highlights underlying political and societal precariousness, and its need for repair.
The use of ‘fragile’ tape also links directly to op.x’s upbringing in a Filipino-English household. A ‘balik bayan box’ is a large box filled with products to send back home to family in the Philippines. Growing up there was always a large balik bayan box in the living room, secured by fragile tape and filled with chocolates, ornaments, clothes and other products that represented the ‘successes of life in UK - and how it was to be protected. By applying the same tape that was used to secure the box when recreating the St George’s Cross, op.x highlights the need to treasure and nurture our society and communities.
Osman Yousefzadfa is aBritish-South Asian interdisciplinary artist, engaging with the representation, rupture, and reimagining of the migration experience. He works across several media, including textile, sculpture, moving image, installation, and performance - blending autobiography with fiction and ritual, and often referring to socio-political issues of the day.
With More Immigrants Please, Osman seeks to shift the conversation around migration, reappropriating the visual language of barricade tape usually associated with exclusion, and including the symbol of an Eastern rug to convey a bold message of hospitality.
As well as being an acclaimed artist, Osman is a celebrated writer, whose first novel, The Go Between, was recently published by Canongate. This gives some insight into how important words are to him, and why he’s so keen to introduce positive vocabularies intoa self-proclaimed hostile environment.
Mumbai-based Indian artist Reena Kallat’s practice spans drawing, photography, sculpture, and video, and is concerned with ideas that hold each other in tension - barriers in a world of mobility, porosity in sites of fissure, memorialisation in the aftermath of amnesia, and the promise and illegibility of national legal documents. Her interest in political and social borders, and their violent cleaving through land, people, and nature, resonates with the continuing aftershocks of the Partition in India, which her paternal family experienced.
In Pattern Recognition, Reena appropriates the Snellen Eye Chart format, creating visual representations of Henley’s Passport Index, which ranks nations based on travel freedoms granted to their citizens, and drawing attention to the ever-changing, perpetually unequal geopolitics of access and mobility. In the landscape version of her work for The Gallery, Reena compares charts representing 2016and 2023, illustrating the UK’s shifting status in the world.