Nalini Malani’s Feminist Visions of Justice: Distinct Exhibitions in Montreal and London

KEY TAKEAWAYS
Nalini Malani, an Indian artist, has been creating feminist mythological landscapes through animations and large-scale media installations for over 50 years.
Her work is influenced by her experiences with colonialism, the partition of India, and the observations of female peers giving up their artistic pursuits due to societal expectations.
Malani was honored with the Distinguished Feminist Award at the 111th Annual College Art Association, marking a significant milestone in her career.
She currently has two major museum exhibitions: "Crossing Boundaries" at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and "My Reality is Different" at the National Gallery in London.
"Crossing Boundaries" in Montreal features three large-scale installations, including a video installation addressing a tragic event, a video projected onto the museum's facade, and a performance-based wall drawing.
"My Reality is Different" in London showcases Malani's critical perspective on colonial-era art by animating paintings from the National Gallery and the Holburne Museum, emphasizing hidden stories and the erasure of true sources of wealth.
Malani sees animation as a universal language that allows her to engage a wider audience and foster open debate and dialogue.

 

For over 50 years, Karachi-born Indian artist Nalini Malani has been mesmerizing audiences with her feminist mythological landscapes, primarily through her animations and large-scale media installations.

Malani’s work is shaped by her experiences with colonialism and the partition of India and is also influenced by her observations of female peers giving up their artistic pursuits due to societal expectations, particularly marriage.

Recently, Malani was honored with the Distinguished Feminist Award at the 111th Annual College Art Association, which marks an important milestone in her career.

Currently, she has two major museum exhibitions showcasing her work: “Crossing Boundaries” at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, and “My Reality is Different” at the National Gallery, London.

Pushing Boundaries in Montreal

“Crossing Boundaries” is composed of three large-scale installations, the nine-channel video installation “Can You Hear Me?” (2018–20), the performance-based wall drawing “City of Desires—Crossing Boundaries” (1992–2023), and a newly crafted video projected onto the façade of the museum’s pavilion, “Ballad of a Woman” (2023).

“Can You Hear Me?” is an intense response to the brutal rape and death of an eight-year-old Indian girl in 2018, consisting of 88 iPad animations.

It embodies Malani’s unique aesthetic of presenting audiences with visually striking imagery while recounting horrific events.

In “Ballad of a Woman”, Malani weaves a tale of a slain woman who eliminates the evidence of her murderer’s crime from the afterlife, creating a perpetual narrative of the self-sacrificial woman.

This work, like others by Malani, draws upon the artist’s talent for illustrating her narratives with vibrant colors and sharp ink outlines.

“City of Desires—Crossing Boundaries” represents Malani’s ongoing exploration of erasure as both an aesthetic device and a political gesture.

At the end of the exhibition, the wall drawing will be scrubbed off in a symbolic performance.

“Crossing Boundaries” is composed of three large-scale installations, the nine-channel video installation “Can You Hear Me?” (2018–20), the performance-based wall drawing “City of Desires—Crossing Boundaries” (1992–2023), and a newly crafted video projected onto the façade of the museum’s pavilion, “Ballad of a Woman” (2023).

Questioning Reality in London

Conversely, “My Reality is Different” at the National Gallery in London is a culmination of Malani’s fellowship at the institution, where she was the first artist to receive such an honor.

This exhibition highlights the artist’s critical perspective on colonial-era art, revealing the erasure of the true sources of wealth, often amassed through slave labor.

She has selected 25 paintings from the permanent collections of the National Gallery and the Holburne Museum in Bath, digitized their images, and created animations on top of them, emphasizing minute details and the hidden stories they represent.

Art as a Universal Language

Despite the complexities and harsh realities reflected in her work, Malani finds joy in animation, which she views as a universal language.

She believes that her moving-image works allow her to engage a wider audience and foster open debate and dialogue, transcending the exclusivity often associated with the art world.

Malani continues to experiment with new narratives and imagery, combining real and fictional characters, creating a convergence of reality and fiction that challenges traditional definitions and boundaries.

Her art remains a testament to her unwavering commitment to feminist and activist perspectives and her determination to illuminate stories too often erased from history.

Culture.org

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