On January 18th the Whitechapel Gallery presented the first major retrospective of photographer, filmmaker and installation artist Zarina Bhimji. The exhibit displays work that spans over two decades, and is a visual tour of Bhimji’s artistic progression throughout her career.
The exhibit features two films, the first is the premiere of the highly anticipated film Yellow Patch (2011), which was inspired by the Indian-African trade history. The 25-minute long film depicts barren interiors and landscapes in India and took Bhimji an astonishing seven years to create. When asked to describe the spaces of her work Bhimiji stated, “The stillness has a suspension of everyday life and yet narrative is deferred by mood and mystery and incompleteness.” Sound is also incorporated as the camera pans in and out.
Zarina Bhimji was born in Uganda in 1963 to Indian parents and moved to Britain in 1974, two years after Idi Amin’s expulsion of Uganda’s Asian community. Bhimji was recently quoted when discussing these events, “My sister and I had to suddenly flee, leaving behind everything except two dresses and a cardigan. During the civil war in Uganda we had stayed indoors with curtains closed. I witnessed violence, shooting and death by Amin’s military. We arrived in England not speaking any English.” (Knowles 2012) The second film exhibited, entitled Out of Blue (2002) reflects on her childhood experiences in Uganda and is intended to register events of elimination, extermination and erasure.
In addition to the films the exhibition also displays photographs from Bhimji’s Love series that were photo stills taken in Uganda as part of her research for the film Out of Blue. The exhibit also features photos and lightboxes from her Red and Wet series (2000-12) and her 2007 Turner Prize exhibition, the year she was nominated.
Bhimji describes her work as: “Not about the actual facts but about the echo they create, the marks, the gestures and the sound. This is what excites me.” The desolate landscapes and subject matter are given a new life through Bhimji’s ability to capture absolute stillness. This retrospective is an opportunity to view the rich story telling of her emotional past.
The film Yellow Patch is simultaneously being premiered at The New Art Gallery in Walsall, West Midlands. Zarina Bhimji’s retrospective was also in collaboration with the Kunstmuseum, Berlin and is supported by the Acne White/ Art T-Shirt Project. The Swedish label has collaborated with four living artists, including Bhimji, and has asked them to re-interpret the white T-shirt which will be sold as limited edition design. Proceeds of the sales go towards an emerging artist’s first monograph. Bhimiji’s fully illustrated catalogue and first monograph can now be purchased at the Whitechapel Gallery bookshop.
PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF THE WHITECHAPEL GALLERY
Dates and Times:
Zarina Bhimji will be on exhibit until March 9th 2012. The gallery is open Tuesday – Sunday 11am – 6pm
Whitechapel Gallery 77-82 Whitechapel High Street London E1 7QX
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Article by Daria McWilliams for XXXX Magazine