We asked artist Shivanjani Lal about her creative process and how it feels to have her work featured in Artbank’s upcoming exhibition The Four Letter Word. Shivanjani Lal is a twice removed Fijian Indian Australian Artist and Curator. She works across different mediums to explore her dislocation and account for memory, erasure, healing, and the archive. She was also recently selected to take part in the 2019 NSW Visual Arts Emerging Fellowship exhibition at Artspace, Sydney.
What led you to become an artist?
I came to art in my mid 20’s, I wasn’t a kid who drew or painted. For me access to artistic expression probably came when my aunt and uncle gave me their Pentax camera and I started taking photographs in my teens, and then when I was 25 I bought a SLR camera and took classes at the Australian Centre of Photography. Later I moved to Melbourne and pursued a second degree in Photomedia and Visual Arts. Being in school really opened me up to the potential of being an artist and this roles’ capacity to share ideas.
What ideas do you explore in your work?
I am interested in empathy and solidarity and how rituals and gestures can create room for invisible histories, make light of important relationships and explore identity. At this present moment this means I am looking at indentured labour histories of the Indian and Pacific Oceans, the stories of the women in my family and looking broadly at the complexity of Fijian, specifically Indo-Fijian identity.
Can you describe your creative process, what materials you use and why you use them?
I think when I begin a creative process I am interested in relationships, place and a material exploration or ritual of an idea that is also in the execution of the work. This sounds vague, but what I am interested in, is ensuring that the work I make has foundational relationships to people, like I know who my paper supplier is. I will often return to shoot in locations because of my connection to that place. The rituals I use often begin with Hindu rituals but are softened to become something less familiar when coupled with things which are familiar such as maps and photographs. Combined they create shifts in perception that can allow space for an audiences empathy / solidarity.
Your work from the Artbank Collection में यहाँ नहीं हुँ (I am not here) is included in our upcoming exhibition The Four Letter Word. How does this work encapsulate your understanding of love?
For me this work looks at place and the physical removal of these places to allow room for renewal. For me my identity is complex, and it is through art that I have made peace with it. In erasing maps connected to my identity I am acknowledging the role of each of these places but I am allowing myself to be remade through my own hands.
How does it feel to have your work in the Artbank collection?
It feels really wonderful to be collected. The work में यहाँ नहीं हुँ (I am not here) has a history with Artbank, I performed the performance version of this work at Artbank in 2016. So it’s lovely that this work has that connection to the organisation.
What’s your favourite artwork in the collection?
Simryn Gill A Small Town at the Turn of the Century #9, 1999-2000. Simryn’s work has been profoundly influential on me, and to be in the same collection with her is very special.
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