02nd November – 30th December 2023
Galerie ISA is proud to present artist Anoushka Mirchandani’s (b.1988, Pune) ‘Homecoming.’
At the core of the Pune-raised, California-based artist’s work is a grappling of identities, an intimate exploration of the role of ancestry, heritage, family, womanhood and migration. Mirchandani’s work reflects on multiculturalism and diversity, and pushes back against homogeneity; the notion of a model minority and the often undisputed celebration that comes with assimilation in a foreign land.
Through a layered examination of womanhood, both physical and metaphorical, she deconstructs the myths surrounding the role of women. From a young age, Mirchandani ascribes a growing awareness of how the female body (beginning with her own) occupies and reclaims space. Her practice is an ongoing conversation with her inner self but also with natural and socio-political environments; a probing into how a woman’s outer world—built by her history, cultural constructs and contexts—continues to define and delineate her.
She delves deep into diasporic identity, a negotiation that Mirchandani herself continues to experience, post her move from India to the United States at the age of 18. The conflicting push and pull of displacement; of living the much vaulted American dream and the undermining of ancestry and cultural identity; of the removal that is often considered a prerequisite for belonging are all leitmotifs in her narrative.
For this particular body of work, the duality of existence comes to the fore. The idea of two halves that make a whole—the environments, colors and moments from life in California juxtaposed with the very patina of family history, of childhood memories, of life growing up in chaotic, vibrant India; a patchwork identity. Using a palette based on intuition and memory, both real and fragmented— the burnt copper, red and sienna of the dirt in Mahabaleshwar where she spent family holidays; dynamic mango yellow and delicate gulabi pink married with the inky blue shadows and the lush greens as reflected in the resplendent natural Californian light.
Adding further complexity to this series is a deep dive through family archives and the forced displacement of her matrilineage, her Nani and Dadi, who fled during the 1947 Partition of India. Their images and stories caused Mirchandani to question, to discuss and to ponder the very nature of women’s voyages, of migration, of the shedding of identities that no longer fit. In ‘Tuning In’, a woman sits at the edge of a bed, the translucent shadow of a radio on a bedside table. The space is Mirchandani’s childhood home in Pune, and the radio references her Nani’s beloved version, which played a central role in gathering, communication and discourse during the family’s forced migration. The transparency references the artist’s visual syntax of code-switching; also used to depict disappearing limbs, reflecting on parts of self that we chose to conceal and reveal and bringing to the surface the discomfiture of unanswered thoughts, The antique radio, which now lives in Mirchandani’s house in California, displaced from its context has become an object of dissonance, vibrating at a different frequency in its new space.
In this work, as in most of Mirchandani’s paintings, it often feels like the subject (usually a selfportrait) is interchangeable with the women who came before her, thereby linking journeys to gain an understanding of the artist’s own.
This archival and ancestral imagery, coupled with painstaking research, generational storytelling and Mirchandani’s own photography informs digital drawings, the beginnings of her painting practice. The works are then transferred to canvas, where she focuses on mixed media, acrylic paint, oil paint, oil stick and oil pastel, bringing them all together in a gradual crescendo, to provide variability in textures, surface and finishes.
Mirchandani’s raw and deeply autobiographical work continues to chip away at self-imposed limiting beliefs, social constructs and cultural expectations. A fascination of the abandonment and reclamation of self, the assertion of existence, the idea of holding space, all while intimate, personal narratives, also reflects a commonality in experience; underscored by the idea of home and belonging as identities continue to morph and evolve.
Priyanka R Khanna