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Permindar Kaur

Born, 1965 in Nottingham, England

Permindar Kaur is a British artist of South Asian origin of substantial repute. She was born in Nottingham to Punjabi parents in 1965. She is a sculptor whose work has been featured in a significant number of solo and group exhibitions, in the UK, Europe and elsewhere in the world. Her practice is characterised by an enigmatic use of materials, scale, and symbolism. Despite its considerable ambiguity of meaning, highly charged cultural and religious symbolism has often been a feature of Kaur’s work. In 1991 she made a community of miniature, but sizeable transparent plate glass houses, for Four x 4 at the Arnolfini in Bristol. The houses were filled with handmade clay domestic implements, cultural objects and religious symbols, by far the most potent of which was the Khanda, the emblem of the Sikhs that is such an instantly recognisable symbol adorning the Gurdwara, the Sikh centre of worship. In the mid 1990s, Kaur’s contributions to The British Art Show included Innocence, a religiously specific piece of work consisting of a child’s dress, made of a rich orange-coloured material. The same coloured material that swathes Gurdwara flagpoles, crowned with the Khanda. Tucked into a sash, draped across the dress, is a khanda or khanja, a double-edged sword that often symbolises the kirpan, one of the five K’s of the Sikh religion.

For Kaur, who secured her MA from Glasgow School of Art, such symbolism takes its place alongside other equally dramatic devices and elements central to her sculpture. Perhaps the most consistent dramatic device employed by Kaur has been her extraordinary use of scale. For the 1990 self-portrait exhibition, Let the Canvas Come to Life With Dark Faces, Kaur made a large oversize head, well over two meters high. The head was made from short metal rods, painstakingly welded together to form a work that successfully referenced the artist’s own distinctive facial features. Successful work on such a scale, requiring as it does copious amounts of patience and technical expertise, is rare indeed.

One of Kaur’s most substantial exhibitions in this country was Cold Comfort, in which her ongoing interest in questions of scale was abundantly apparent. The centrepiece of the exhibition was a work of three steel-framed beds, constructed to stand high above the viewer. Each bed came complete with attached ladders, enabling prospective users to literally ‘climb into bed’. Elsewhere in the exhibition, a pair of chairs similarly dwarfed the viewer. Perhaps one of the most disconcerting things about these particular pieces was that they did look like the eccentric or slightly odd creations of an artist. They were polished, highly finished pieces of furniture that have a showroom-like quality, making them all the more disconcerting.

But the scale of Kaur’s sculpture is not always expansive. There are a number of her works that are reductive or undersize, creating further disquieting effects on the viewer. The catalogue that accompanied the exhibition featured a full-page photograph of a four-wheeled cart resembling a cage on wheels. The photograph made the cart look as though, like the three beds mentioned earlier, it too might be the biggest cart we’ve ever seen. In reality however, the viewer towers above the cart. Another piece in the catalogue (again, a full page photograph) showed a row of five beds made of welded metal, each bed complete with brightly patterned or coloured mattresses. But the scale of the beds is decidedly ambiguous. Measurements were conspicuously absent from the catalogue, thus compounding the ambiguities of scale. In another part of the Cold Comfort exhibition, a brass bed has been made - not exactly the sort of bed for a baby or a young child, yet by no means adult sized.

It is such work that makes Kaur such an important sculptor. By using material, be it glass, felt, or whatever, in ways that go beyond the conventional, or beyond the orthodox, Kaur is able to animate a whole range of emotions and to oblige us to reconsider notions and attitudes that perhaps might otherwise merely lie dormant.

A reproduction of Permindar Kaur’s Arrival (1991) appeared in Mora Beauchamp-Byrd’s essay London Bridge: Late Twentieth Century British Art and the Routes of ‘National Culture’ in the catalogue for Transforming the Crown.

Her website is www.permindarkaur.com

Related items + view all 42

click to show details of Permindar Kaur | Out of Breath - invite card

»  Permindar Kaur | Out of Breath - invite card

Invite relating to an exhibition, 1999

click to show details of Permindar Kaur | Out of Breath - press release

»  Permindar Kaur | Out of Breath - press release

Press release relating to an exhibition, 1999

click to show details of Permindar Kaur | Untitled

»  Permindar Kaur | Untitled

Catalogue relating to an exhibition, 1999

click to show details of Permindar Kaur | Untitled

»  Permindar Kaur | Untitled

Poster relating to an exhibition, 1999

click to show details of The Siting of the Self | Permindar Kaur

»  The Siting of the Self | Permindar Kaur

Article relating to an exhibition, 1996

Related exhibitions + view all 15

»  Cold Comfort

Solo show at The Bluecoat Gallery. 1996

»  Cold Comfort Part I

Solo show at Ikon Gallery. 1996

Related venues + view all 17

»  Aspex Gallery

Portsmouth, United Kingdom

»  The Bluecoat Gallery

Liverpool, United Kingdom

»  Fabrica

Brighton, United Kingdom

»  Ikon Gallery

Birmingham, United Kingdom

»  Mead Gallery, Warwick Arts Centre

Coventry, United Kingdom