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Features / February 1, 2013

Sarindar Dhaliwal Rewrites the Past at A Space

A Space Gallery, Toronto January 18 to February 23, 2013

Sarindar Dhaliwal has a vibrant perception of the world. Born in the Punjab region of India, raised in suburban London, England, and now living and working in Toronto, Dhaliwal creates art that is often influenced by her changing surroundings. In “the cartographer’s mistake: Southall and other places” at A Space, the artist shares experiences and memories of her childhood, perceptions of her motherland, and observations on how growing up with a hybrid identity has come to shape the person she is today.

The exhibition references Dhaliwal’s childhood home in Southall, London, one of the many places she has come to know, and it’s a place which latently informs works like the cartographer’s mistake: the Radcliffe Line. This digitally rendered image of India as made up of marigolds makes reference to British lawyer and jurist Cyril Radcliffe, who was responsible for drawing the border between India and Pakistan. Conflicts related to this colonialist decision led to the displacement of millions of people, and this ripping apart of communities seems to have left Dhaliwal herself feeling torn between her place of birth and her adopted countries.

Text and colour play a large role within the exhibition, particularly in the green fairy story book, which consists of 14 handmade books that recount a narrative across their combined spines. Dhaliwal concludes this tale of a young girl’s fascination with books and images as “a resolution of sorts; a coming home to the place where all the narratives she has written began.”

Through an array of words and objects informed by Dhaliwal’s past, one can feel a sense of release—an exhale of sorts—on the part of the artist. “the cartographer’s mistake” lets Dhaliwal relive her colourful childhood as well as find closure for a time that has long gone, arraying aspects of the past in a way that permits individual viewers to tease out their own personal connections.