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Published  16/09/2022
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Permindar Kaur – interview: ‘It’s hard to get a balance in the work: an equal amount of threat and an equal amount of softness’

Permindar Kaur – interview: ‘It’s hard to get a balance in the work: an equal amount of threat and an equal amount of softness’

The sculptor talks to us about her playful use of the domestic realm to explore feelings of belonging and cultural identity

Blending the soft with the spiky, comfort with threat, the domestic with hints of something wild, Permindar Kaur’s sculpture and installations explore the subtleties of belonging. As becomes evident from her new exhibition at The Art House in Wakefield, Kaur’s sculptural language has been remarkably consistent since she first emerged on to the British art scene in the early 1990s. Outgrown brings together works that take their formal language from the domestic realm, across three decades of Kaur’s career. The public space of the gallery, visible from the street through floor-to-ceiling windows, has been reimagined as a home, with spaces for sleeping, sitting, playing and dining.



Overgrown House, 2020. Steel, 310 x 400 x 200 cm. Installation view, Permindar Kaur – Outgrown, The Art House, Wakefield. Photo: Richard Davies.

At the centre of the gallery, the spindly Overgrown House (2020) sprouts up toward the skylights as though it were an organic entity sending shoots out towards the sun. A cluster of small steel beams surrounding it suggests that this blatantly manufactured structure has also been sending roots out beneath the ground to generate a series of small clones. Kaur typically brings two materials together in each work – often textile and metal. In the case of Overgrown House, this gesture is particularly understated: rounded “sprouts” have been welded on to square beams, suggesting an arboreal evolution of the industrial material.



Sleeping Figure, 1994-2010. Fabric, 40 x 60 x 60 cm. Installation view, Permindar Kaur – Outgrown, The Art House, Wakefield. Photo: Richard Davies.

Kaur also plays with scale in the earliest work in the show, Tall Chairs 1996 – a pair of leggy steel seats on which perch two soft yellow beings, their arms hugged self-protectively around their little legs. Other brightly coloured fleecy avatars appear climbing the legs of a spiky steel stool or weighed to the ground under a suffocating pile of blankets. A herd of colourful creatures are also clustered beneath a skeletal narrow bed. Bristling with copper spikes, they suggest the unspeakable horrors that assail us at night – the monsters under the bed – but also things pushed out of sight and out of mind. Stripped of all extraneous detail, the clean simplicity of Kaur’s work allows it to blend quietly into its surroundings: it is only as we start to pay attention that the oddness and implicit menace of the work becomes creepingly apparent.



Untitled – Bed, 2020. Steel, fabric, copper and stuffing, 86 x 177 x 80 cm. Installation view, Permindar Kaur – Outgrown, The Art House, Wakefield. Photo: Richard Davies.

During a residency at The Art House ahead of her exhibition, Kaur worked with two local artists – Ranya Abdulateef and Ifa Mesfin Abebe – to develop a sculpture exploring the idea of home, to be installed in Wakefield Cathedral this autumn. Informed by experiences of migration, Dream Runner reimagines the bed – a mainstay of Kaur’s sculptural vocabulary – as a curving, pod-like structure that suggests a living, perhaps mobile, entity.

Born in Nottingham in 1965, Kaur studied at Sheffield City Polytechnic and Glasgow School of Art. In 1995 her work was selected for the British Art Show 4. Over the following decade her sculpture was shown internationally, including solo exhibitions in Spain and Canada as well as the UK. More recently, her work has been featured in the 2021 Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, and the Arts Council Collection Touring exhibition, Breaking the Mould: Sculpture by Women since 1945. 

Permindar Kaur: Outgrown
The Art House, Wakefield
3 September – 13 November 2022
 
Permindar Kaur, Ranya Abdulateef and Ifa Mesfin Abebe: Dream Runner
Wakefield Cathedral
28 September – 13 November 2022

Interview by HETTIE JUDAH
Filmed by MARTIN KENNEDY

Click on the pictures below to enlarge

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