The Contemporary Art Society has acquired a work on paper by Rina Banerjee for The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery. Banerjee is known for her eclectic sculptures, watercolour paintings and delicate drawings that reflect her background, incorporating South Asian and Western cultural and material influences. Her practice engages with cultural exchange through materiality, often incorporating materials from various traditions. Her works on paper are inspired by ancient Asian art, where colourful patterns and grotesque, monstrous figures intertwine and float in an extraordinarily curious universe. The lines between male and female, human and divine are blurred, rendering strong depictions of our contemporary world through the artist’s eyes.
The work, titled In turmeric Yellow, another world apart from ours, bathed in humans as resources, natural riches seated in natures warm throne, golden and delicious, encrusted in sugary plants and rambunctious animals waited, watched when small factories tired in the business of making money could not make me a mango (2020) depicts a female figure holding a monkey. Banerjee’s titles are often long and poetic, seeming to come from ancient texts, but the words are the artist’s own. The painting contains a large figure uncomfortably contorted in the scene. Both the figure and the monkey stare out at the viewer making it apparent that the viewer is intruding upon the scene and disrupting the natural environment.
Inspired by ancient South Asian art, the painting was specially selected as it builds upon the art-historical associations between South Asian art and the museum’s collections. The architectural sculptor and art teacher, John Lockwood Kipling (1837-1911) attended art classes at Stoke before moving to India where he taught at the Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy School of Art in Mumbai and the Mayo School of Industrial Arts in Lahore (today Pakistan’s National College of Arts). Kipling also helped to establish the Wonderland Art Pottery, which specialised in traditional South Asian arts and crafts, and a selection of the earthenware vessels made by the pottery were donated to The Potteries Museum by Kipling’s son, the author Rudyard Kipling, in the early 20th century. The work is thus a significant addition to the development of the museum’s fine art collection, strengthening its holdings of artworks by important female South Asian artists.
Rina Banerjee (b. 1963, Calcutta). Lives and works in New York City. Recent solo exhibitions include Fowler Museum at UCLA, Los Angeles (2020); San Jose Museum of Art, California (both 2019); Musée des Beaux-Arts de Rouen, France. Recent group exhibitions include Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris (2020); Fondation Villa Datris, l’Isle sur la Sorgue (2019); Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Mumbai (2018).