About the Artwork
This diaphanous installation – a series of suspended opalescent organza panels by the Melbourne-based artist Sangeeta Sandrasegar – is emblematic of the artist’s preoccupation with the challenges of cultural difference in the context of diaspora.
On close inspection, some of the panels reveal depictions of Australian floral motifs rendered in delicate embroidery. The flowers adorn dimly traced feet in the manner of henna decoration of hands and feet of women on the subcontinent. The feet and legs float in mid-air, adrift from the rest of a body which is absent. On other panels the outlines of Australian trees can be seen; and on one, the ripples of sand and sea. The artist has commented that for her the panels ‘evoke the colours of this country… [in] the ghost-like softness of certain hours…’.
The title is taken from a poem by the English Romantic poet John Keats (1795-1821). The artist also drew inspiration from William Butler Yeats’ (1865-1939) poem ‘He wishes for the cloths of heaven’ (1). In Sandrasegar’s work, the juxtaposition of materials and techniques associated with traditional female pursuits, together with the ambivalence implied by the title, results in a poetic reflection on place and the vulnerabilities that can be experienced by women at a time of increased global migration.
(1) 'He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven’ was published in 1899 in Yates’ third volume of poetry, The Wind Among the Reeds.
“Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.”
Anna Davis, (curator), Introduction, MCA Collection: New Acquisitions in Context 2010, (exhibition catalogue), Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney
Vivienne Webb, (curator), ‘Sangeeta Sandrasegar’, Primavera 2004: Exhibition by young Australian artists, (exhibition catalogue), Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney.
Quotation: Sangeeta Sandrasegar, from a statement written by the artist on occasion of the acquisition of her work by the Museum of Contemporary Art, 2010
In a way … [this work] is about love – the ties that bind – yearning and obligation, to place and to people.
Sangeeta Sandrasegar, 2010
– About the artist
Sandrasegar has a research-based practice, in which narratives are built as each new work connects to previous projects. Her practice is centred round postcolonial and hybridity theories and draws strongly from her mixed heritage. Sandrasegar is interested in the many ways the structures of culture, sexuality and identity are intertwined in contemporary culture and in interpreting and representing these interconnections. These themes are explored through research and the development of a visual language concerned with shadows: through installations of paper cut-outs and soft sculptures, the constructed shadow becomes a motif for themes of self-hood, otherness and in-between spaces. Simultaneously engaged with the history of the shadow in art, in extending the scope of the art-object, the cast shadows hints towards cognitive alternatives, and sites of transformation.
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