Jasleen Kaur (b. 1986) is a Scottish-Indian artist based in London. She was brought up in a traditional Sikh household in Glasgow. An early influence upon Kaur’s practice was formed by working in her family’s hardware business Hardy’s Hardware, an Anglicisation of her father’s name ‘Hardeep’. This enforced a connection with materials, compelling Kaur to re-evaluate objects, their cultural connotations and what they reveal about how we live and work within different communities.
Kaur’s practice is an ongoing exploration into the malleability of culture and the layering of social histories within materials and objects. She examines the hierarchy of histories and labour using a range of mediums and methods including object making, video, conversation and cooking. Through these different mediums, Kaur seeks to explore our relationship to culture and multi-culturalism in a wider sense. Often employing refashioned objects, Kaur reflects the hybridity of national customs and reconsiders the realities of materiality, usage and everyday routine. Ideal Standards (2017), commissioned by British ceramic manufacturer Armitage Shanks for Hull City of Culture 2017, is an example of this. Kaur took a standard Armitage Shanks toilet and raised the floor up around it to become seat-height, mimicking the rudimentary squat toilet. The raised floor and sides are clad in Axminster Carpet and 1980’s bathroom tiles – materials that Kaur associates with a kind of ‘Indian-ness’. She is interested in examining these ‘aspirational’ materials that, through use, have shifted their origins and become visual signifiers of cultures establishing themselves in new environments.
I Keep Telling Them These Stories (2018) is an installation of sculptural and video works made from footage and sound recordings gathered in India and Scotland. It is informed by researching and uncovering histories – both familial and colonial – and thinking of culture as praxis, as something that requires closer rereading, relistening and reclaiming. He walked like he owned himself (2018) has a similar narrative. This work, an orange tracksuit with a blue embellished stripe, is made from Kaur’s process of uncovering and making sense of a colonial history of India. In the Sikh diaspora of Britain, memories of orange and blue Adidas tracksuits attach to the visual identity of Sikh youths in a ‘90s Britain; that orange-yellow mimicking the mustard fields of a homeland. Embroidered down the arms and legs are the weapons that make up the Sikh emblem — kirpan, khanda, chakkar — whose origins share no genealogy to Sikhism’s religious history but instead evolved from the design of British Indian army uniform logos. It is this slipperiness of culture, this (mis)formation of cultural identity which defines much of Kaur’s practice.
Kaur is currently showing in a group exhibition, P is for Portrait, at THE ART HOUSE in Worcester until 1st March 2019. Upcoming shows include Artists Housing Prototype Show, curated by Eastside Projects for Artcore, Derby (1st February – 1st March 2019); and Art 50 Weekender, a solo presentation at BALTIC centre for Contemporary Art (Saturday 23rd & Sunday 24th February 2019).
Jasleen Kaur (b. 1986, Glasgow) lives and works in London. She graduated from the Silversmithing and Jewellery department of Glasgow School of Art in 2008 and went on to study Applied Art at the Royal College of Art in 2009-10.
Recent commissions include Eastside Projects, Birmingham (2018); Victoria & Albert Museum (2017); Goethe Institut, London (2017); Baltic 39 ‘Figure Three’, Gateshead (2016); and Art on the Underground (2015). Her work is part of the permanent collection of the Royal College of Art and Crafts Council.