Anoushka Mirchandani’s figures seem contented and confident, whether they are seen alone or as a pair. There is a deep sense of intimacy in these paintings whether it be between two figures or a sort of self-intimacy of one. They are almost entirely faceless and yet manage to look directly at you. We can’t work out whether they are powerfully delicate, or delicately powerful.
This September, Mirchandani is presenting a series of portraits at Rhodes Contemporary Art in London (her debut in the city), following a sold out exhibition in San Francisco last year. We spoke to Mirchandani ahead of the opening to ask her about her practice, her next moves, and her compositions.
Introduce yourself – how would you explain what it is you make?
I’m an Indian artist, living in San Francisco. My practice is focused on examining and investigating my own hybrid identity as a South Asian immigrant woman, and the trials and tribulations alongside the wonder and joy that is part and parcel of that reality.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I’m inspired by my ancestry and cultural upbringing in India, and the freedom and agency I have discovered living in the United States. When I’m creating, my physical environment and the cultural context at the time of creation impacts my work, and I transmute my understanding of that specific time and place into the painting itself. Artists like Matisse, Wayne Thiebaud, Helen Frankenthaler, Dayanita Singh, Rina Banerjee, Njideka Akunyili Crosby to name just a handful are also incredibly inspiring!
You leave out details and spaces within your work – what’s the significance of the parts you choose to fill?
For me the spaces, the transparencies, and the opaque shapes, limbs and forms of each painting are a reminder of all the multifaceted parts of ourselves. The vulnerable, and the impenetrable. The opportunity to look through, and the ability to veil. These transitions seem to be a natural part of how we all code-switch in our own personal contexts, be it across cultures, social environments etc.
What does your upcoming show at Rhodes represent for your practice?
“Just Between Us” at Rhodes Contemporary Art speaks closely to my own journey of self-reflection and identity excavation during the isolation of the pandemic, and the ensuing intimacy created with the sentient and non-sentient objects and spaces around me. The show reveals the liminal spaces we all live in, and the emotions we experience as we navigate our emergence back into the world. In many ways, the exhibition is also about sanctuary spaces, the dwellings, both psychological and tangible that we find comfort and safety in.
What’s next for you!
I am partaking in a group show in December at Glass Rice in San Francisco, with two other phenomenal female South Asian artists with diasporic roots. I also have some very exciting residencies coming up and will share more as soon as I can!
Text by Verity Babbs
Photo by Hillary Jeane Photography