Body Terrains

The artist Sunaina Bhalla presents a poignant and powerful exhibition to support all those going through breast cancer and fighting disease. She works internationally and collaboratively with Tapan Mittal-Deshpande, the Founder of Thotpot, a not-for-profit organisation which supports and works with communities and the arts, based in Mumbai and Uthra Rajgopal, a Curator, based in the UK. Collectively, Sunaina, Tapan and Uthra, along with the generous support of Nine Fish Gallery, have come together to present the inaugural exhibition of the initiative R.I.S.E, Resilient and Inspiring Stories of Empowerment which champions the holistic power of art to heal and bring us together.

The human body is in a constant cycle of repairing and regenerating. Our existence depends on it. When our bodies are attacked with a disease this cycle rapidly repeats. Yet simultaneously we are also slowly decaying. Although we know our physical presence is finite, we all have the instinct to survive.

This exhibition brings to the forefront the importance of these paradoxes. By reflecting on her own physical and emotional journey through breast cancer, Sunaina Bhalla draws on her autobiographical power of healing and the colours of Ayurvedic remedies. Handmade paper with golden turmeric hues creates a tensile strength, resembling taught skin, stretched over the surface of a light box. Like an x-ray image, we see fibrous thread-like structures and nerve endings pierced with needles, stitched in red and gold to signify the trauma and hope the body holds. Fragile, delicate lines hold their position like lightning bolts across the layers: the scars of time.

The process of suturing and piecing together our lives is captured in the collaborative quilt, hand-made by the women workforce of Thotpot Designed by Tapan Mittal-Deshpande and Sunaina Bhalla, this artwork, through its composition of colours, fabrics and stitches conveys the processes of protection, borne from resilient and inspiring stories of empowerment.

Installation View
— Artist Spotlight

Sunaina Bhalla

Sunaina is a contemporary artist of Indian origin, who lives and works in Singapore. Educated in India, she moved to Tokyo in the late 90’s and has spent the last two decades in various parts of North and South Asia. Having completed her formal education as a textile designer specializing in print, she chose to pursue an immersive education in the traditional art form of Nihonga in Japan, where she spent 5 years studying under Ohta-sensei of the Kyoshin-Do school.

Her work revolves around the repetitive and ritualistic nature of gestures and their traces. She explores the transformative effects of the deliberate infliction of pain on the human body during the curative process of alleviating disease and decay. By using industrial
materials analogous to the fragile nature of the body, juxtaposed with natural fabric and embroidery, she examines the passage of time and the mark making that documents this process. Sunaina is currently researching traditional healing practices in India, with a focus on Ayurveda and natural remedies using spices and herbs

Sunaina has exhibited in Japan, India, Singapore, Europe and the Middle East. Her works are in the permanent collections of the ESSL Museum, Vienna and Mumbai Airports Authority, India, and in various private collections globally.

— Curator Spotlight

Uthra Rajgopal

Uthra Rajgopal is a Curator based in the UK with a specialist interest in South Asian textiles and dress. A former graduate of York University and the Courtauld Institute of Art. With a background in working with museum dress and textile collections, commercial archives, and exhibitions, Uthra has been a contributing author to ‘Textile History’ and ‘Authenticity and Replication: The ‘Real Thing’ in Art and Conservation’ and is a former lecturer at Manchester School of Art (MMU). Formerly at the Whitworth in Manchester, Uthra has worked on the exhibitions Raqib Shaw, Beyond Borders, and Beyond Faith.

In 2019 Uthra received the prestigious Art Fund New Collecting Award which provided funding to build a new collection for the Whitworth of South Asian textile artworks made by South Asian female artists from Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh and from the diaspora in England.

Image credit: Michael Pollard


The Initiative
Inaugral exhibition of Resilient and Inspiring Stories of Empowerment bringing together arts and health
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