Claudia’s work – seminar 29.10.2018



Title: Embracing the Other

Work by Claudia Dharamshi

The artist’s current work focuses in researching and experimenting with family photographs captured in India, some dated back in 1860 when India was a British colony.

In this digital work of 30×20 cm, the artist uses the negative image of a photo of a female portrait, blended in a landscape and framed by an oval shape with patterns referencing old lace work.

As a contemporary reference to Cezanne’s Bathers, the portrait is interwoven in the landscape, forming an inseparable part of the land and the specific area, emphasizing this way the strong bonds of the family members with the alien land.  The use of colour scheme and the oval lace shape facilitate the artists’ intention to travel the viewer back in time, urging the viewer to search his own past and history.

In this work the artist experiments with digital printing, deviating from her practice of using prints and paints. The use of technology can be considered as an intention by the artist to incorporate further links in her work between the past and the present. At the same time, it cannot be overlooked that the antithesis between the use of technology and the use of the photograph negative, can be a reference to the differences between the colonialists and the locals. Commenting on a photo with family members and local women, the artist states whether “this represents an insensitive kind of tourism which we still partake in today but in the context of British colonial rule it also suggests a form of ownership/ categorisation of otherness. There is a sense that some of the women are happy to partake in the photo shoot whilst others are more wary, embarrassed or unwilling”.

Which makes me wonder whether colonialism might be the next chapter in the artist’s research, as the use of the photograph negative in this work already creates links with the other: as the local, the alien, the opposite. In the artist’s words, “I have not really addressed the issue of colonialism in my work based on these photo albums up to this point. It is certainly relevant, although there is an awkwardness for me as the images are of my family. I think it is important to point out that I am not villainising my family but acknowledging the social and political context of the photographs”. In his work L’ homme revolte, Albert Camus, commenting on the efforts of Algeria to gain independency as a French colony, emphasizes how the interaction between the colonialists and the locals may have positive effects for both sides, stating that through the interaction and aggregation between the two cultures a new entity could arise, as opposed to an entity with a strong nationalist identity. This positive aspect of colonialism is evident in this work: the artist blends the female portrait of a family member with the landscape, as a reference to the family’s intention to familiarize the locals with the western culture, and at the same time to benefit from the local culture.