Tanya Gill is a professional artist, an educator, and the Visual Arts Director for Eye on India. She lives between Chicago, USA and Chandigarh, India. The following is extracted from a presentation Tanya Gill gave during the panel “The Idea of India: Imagination, Attachment, Diaspora…” on June 18th at the Field Museum during the Eye on India Festival in 2014. All of the presenters were asked to speak to ideas, objects and relationships “that create enduring bonds to India.”
My journey the last ten years has been about objects, adaptation, living in the in-between, and the unity of self. All of the above have directly shaped my process and work as an artist. How has my life been about objects? As an artist I make and cherish objects. I work with images, ideas and feelings. I process experiences down to a material and a visual level. I turn them into objects.
Adaptation? We all make adaptations to survive and exist in our community. These adaptations can be extreme, such as taking on a new language, but they can also be smaller gestures. They can be almost unperceivable, such as how one asks a question. In my case, I “married into India.” Marriage and living elsewhere both require adaptation.
I now live between. I live between North India and Chicago; I live between cultures, religions, traditions and beliefs. We all live between cultures to some extent these days. Many of us live away from where we are from, and for those of us who do not different cultures have come to us.
Living in-between leads us to the idea of the unity of self. My journey has been as much about adaptation as it has been about maintaining a sense of self throughout adjustments. But isn’t our self a collection of varying parts? The varying parts make a whole- or rather the parts are the whole?
It is inevitable that my lived experiences work their way into my art. However, I found that just as my assimilation would take time, so would the integration of my experiences into my work. In my art practice, I strive to let the art lead- as in I let the making lead to more making. And so I did until I arrived at Landscape Observed.
Landscape Observed is a series of small art works in paper inlay. In these works rice paper and painted bond paper are simultaneously cut, and then unified into one artwork. Paper inlay is different from collage. In collage, paper is layered upon paper and secured with glue. In inlay the pieces are spliced together and laid side by side; they make one surface.
In collage the pieces can always be removed from each other; they can be separated. With inlay if the paper parts are separated a gap remains. And the parts remain the parts that fit together to make the whole piece. They forever belong together and fit together to make one artwork.
I did not take on this process to be technically clever. My experience of living in between has lead me to create these pieces. It is my compulsion to mimic bringing parts together to make a whole, to unify. As we all are, a whole complete in the parts.
My Landscape Observed series is seemly simple; the shapes extracted from North Indian towns are distilled into flat, colorful shapes. You may be able to make out the shape of a small roof top addition or the shape of a shed. The colors and shapes are simplified, and presented in isolation for us to consider.
And in the same way that we humans cannot be entirely seen in one glance, the work is subtle. It is not immediately clear that the artwork is made up of different papers spliced together. You only see the detail upon close inspection, but the feeling of unity that emanates from the object is clear.
My journey continues; I look forward to the unforeseen, continuing my work, and living in the in-between….