Far away from India’s urban centres, photographer Gauri Gill (b.1970) has been exploring the daily lives of the country’s rural population for more than two decades, seeking to give a voice to the vulnerable and overlooked of modern India.
Based in New Delhi, Gauri Gill has in recent years made her mark on the international art scene. Her quiet, concentrated images focus the viewer’s gaze on barely perceived peripheral areas of Indian society. In an open, collaborative process that resists documentary conventions, the artist devotes her work to themes such as survival, self-assertion, identity, and belonging, as well as conceptual issues relating to memory and authorship.
As a common thread in all her works, is the desire to move outsiders of modern society in India – the forgotten, hidden, overlooked and outcast – into the centre of the picture. And thereby into our field of vision.
Gauri Gill uses a wide range of photographic genres, working both in black/white and colour, as well as analogue and digital. The foundation of Gill’s work and the starting point for several of her photo series is the long-term archival project Notes from the Desert, in which she has used photography to engage with marginalized communities in Rajasthan in the border region of north-western India since 1999. In this series, as across her entire oeuvre, the artist particularly expresses her long friendships with women, whom she highlights in intimate portraits. She continues to work on the project today.
A collective process
Gauri Gill's works are often the result of a collective process and of close ties and friendships with the local population in different parts of India. The exhibition also highlights Gill’s collaborative approach, which includes working with artists from rural regions. In her most recent series, 'Acts of Appearance' (2015-ongoing), for example, she incorporates masks made by papier-mâché artists from the Kokna and Warli communities in Jawhar, Maharashtra, into improvised scenes of daily life, devising a fascinating dialogue between reality and fiction.
About the artist
Gauri Gill (b. 1970, Chandigarh, India) studied applied art at Delhi College of Art, New Delhi, and photography at Parsons School of Design, New York, before earning an MFA in art at Stanford University in California. Today, she lives and works in New Delhi. Her work has been featured in major exhibitions in India and internationally, including the 58th Venice Biennale, documenta 14 in Athens and Kassel, the 7th Moscow Biennale, and the 2016 Kochi-Muziris Biennale. Recent solo exhibitions include shows at the Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio; MoMA PS1, New York; Museum Tinguely, Basel; and the Smithsonian Institution, Washington.
This exhibition is however, the first extensive survey exhibition of the artist’s multifaceted photographic oeuvre.
Gill's works can be found in museum collections worldwide, including at the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Tate, London; Smithsonian Institution, Washington and Museum of Photography, Winterthur. In 2011, she was awarded the Grange Prize, Canada's largest photography prize.
Gauri Gill on her practice
In this film, Gauri Gill talks about the evolution of her photographic practice, her collaborative projects, and her ongoing engagement with rural India since 1999. Duration: 24 min.
Between boom and tradition
This extensive survey exhibition brings together about 200 pieces from the artist's pivotal series, which explore themes of identity, gender and class hierarchies, migration and cultural belonging, the distortion between centre and periphery – and between modern boom capitalism in the cities and the deeper roots of Indian culture. They are tales of life and death, poverty and wealth, friendship and loss, resistance and beauty.