Spirit of India

Bow and arrow, painting by Anu Chouhan. | Photo courtesy of Anu Chouhan

Spirit of India will be celebrating the art and culture of India with an exhibition of the works of 26 South Asian artists living in Greater Vancouver.

It is a platform for South Asian artists to meet other local artists, bring awareness to the controversial topics they showcase with their art, and share a little bit of India with the rest of the community.

The exhibition runs May 2–23, at the Arts Centre at Port Moody.

Badass characters

Anu Chouhan is an animator who grew up in Surrey and is of Punjabi heritage. “I used to love watching cartoons, but I would never see anyone that looked like me,” she says.

As a Punjabi living in Canada, she had the privilege of having supportive parents, but was always aware of the lack of status the profession had in her community.

“You just gotta be strong and brave” she says.

Chouhan also describes her characters as badass.

“It’s not to beat people up, but to show women that they can be powerful, especially young girls,” she says.

Chouhan incorporates the spirit of India in her artwork through her interest in Indian fashion, women of different skin tones, and the Indian weapons. Her characters wear sarees and lehengas (an embroidered and pleated ankle-length skirt) and carry swords.

She is looking forward to the Spirit of India exhibition to network and interact with other South Asian artists.

“If my art is able to motivate people, that’s what I like to hear,” says Chouhan.

Art and health

Payal Bansal, artist. | Photo courtesy of Payal Bansal

Payal Bansal describes her art as a diverse array of creative thoughts and an expression of her own self.

Through Spirit of India, Bansal aims to foster awareness about mental health and sexuality by using abstract expressionism in her art.

For Bantal, dilapidated, abandoned asylums that host ghosts are beautiful, and represent what happens to a human being going through mental health issues.

“I find that buildings and architecture, they gave me an emotional response,” she says.

Suffering from mental health issues herself, and dissatisfied with the stigma that mental health issues carry with them, she is using this exhibition as a platform to address topics people may not be comfortable talking about.

As the oldest female child of a Punjabi household, and a first generation Canadian, Bansal has always felt like she doesn’t belong. Throughout her childhood, she felt there were certain expectations for her to be a certain way. However, she fought hard to get the right resources to help with her own mental health challenges and take up her creative career.

“My ultimate goal is to be an art therapist,” she says.

The colours of a culture

Anu Chouhan, artist. | Photo courtesy of Anu Chouhan

Seema Zaidi will be showing two of her silk paintings, one of which is printed on a wearable silk shawl made with silk organza and merino wool.

When asked how she brings the spirit of India to her artwork, Zaidi mentions the colours she uses. She says her fellow artists, friends and others around her would always be drawn to her work because of the warmth and vibrancy in the colours mixed together. She compares the warm colours she uses to the warmth that Indian people have, and the hospitality that they carry, which in turn draws other people to them.

“Jardin de fleurs. It’s basically my garden, and every piece you see is a flower for me,” she says.

The art world in Lucknow, India, which Zaidi refers to as “back home,” is substantially different to the one in Greater Vancouver. There are very limited opportunities, she says, and a limited amount of encouragement to young aspiring artists pursuing a creative career. Seeing how people try to encourage artists here, Zaidi would love to be able to bring that same spirit back home.

The Spirit of India opening reception will take place on Thursday, May 2 from 6–8 pm. The artists will be in attendance and refreshments will be served; admission is free.

For more information, please visit www.pomoarts.ca.