As a hybrid of cultures and faiths, and as a ‘product’ of colonialism, my private and internal struggles to forge stable identities has led me to create a unique personal visual vocabulary. How does a woman negotiate the complex territory of cultural and religious minefields to ‘image’ and ‘imagine’ her body? My perceptions of my body, it’s interior spaces and exterior surfaces, are expressed through watercolour paint on paper, but the hand paints what the body feels in the mind, images in paint are, for me, physical formations of imaginary sensations.
I attempt to express the fractured and fantastical identity formation that occurred in the multiple margins of colliding and opposing worlds, cultures and faiths, and I explore how the cross-cultural female body becomes a conflicted and contested territory of spaces, volumes, surfaces, skins, materials and substances.
There is a link between identity, trauma and fantasy, and the notion that colonialism/Empire has lasting and insidious effects on the identity formation of the private and individual subjectivity.
I draw on a complex past of body sensations and imaginings about my body from the colonial past of my upbringing and its traumas and fantasies of self, of memories, childhood tales, the violence of conflicting social expectations, wearing veils and stitching embroidery.
The body in the mind is shaped into a fantastical grotesquery by contradictory, painful forces of warring sects of being which create an imaginary and visual ‘body language’ that is both beautiful and disturbing, familiar and strange.
My work is not about images on paper, it is about body/memory work, the ornamental carved intricacies of trauma on the body/self and how trauma and fantasy are exquisitely and intricately bound.
Exquisite intricacy, the fantastical and the imaginary, the paradoxical and contradictory – these are the ‘grotesque’, ‘ornamental’ and hybrid forms that I use in my painting and writing. I use the terms ‘grotesque’ and ‘ornamental’ in new ways as metaphors for the bodily, sensory, erotic, non-classical, non-Western, sinuous, patterned body and resist the negative connotations of these terms.
Luminous highly pigmented St. Petersburg watercolour paints and heavy 300gsm rough watercolour paper facilitate building intense complex colour and texture. Translucency and fluidity of watercolour allow the making of exquisite lines, effects of threads, hair, embroidery, nets, webs, lace, knots, intricate organic structures, fluids, tissues.
The hybrid ‘grotesque’ ornamental metamorphic body or identity is a mode of thinking, it is also an imaginative construct, a mythology about the body and the self used by those in the margins to disrupt and question canonical forms and dominant identities. It is a paradoxical form that I employ because, growing up across two cultures, Eastern and Western, it is a form that allows me to bring together highly different modes of seeing. It permits the making of discordia concors – harmonies of conflicting and disparate parts.