Zarina Bhimji Trades In At Whitechapel

Zarina Bhimji


Zarina Bhimji @ Whitechapel Gallery – REVIEW

Zarina Bhimji, tjhe Uganda-born artist nominated for the 2007 Turner Prize, presents an incredible selection of work from the last 25 year, including the premiere of her new film ‘Yellow Patch’, at the Whitechapel Gallery.

The exhibition opens with Bhimji’s new film on Indian-African trade history, ‘Yellow Patch’. A mere 25 minutes long, it took her 7 years to create, being the product of meticulous planning, and perfectionist attention to detail. (About the room are hung the multitude of ‘notes’ – a.k.a photographs – generated in the process of making)

Yellow Patch draws us in immediately with a fanfare of bellowing horns, and from then on, we are captivated; no escape. Our eye is willingly led by the camera’s focus, allured along curves and edges of desert and ocean, and into the shaded corners of derelict buildings, houses and trade offices.

‘Out of Blue’ (2002) is her second film on show, concentrating on those peoples of Asian descent expelled from Uganda in 1972. This is an arresting visual journey whereby we are shown gliding imagery of places that were once brimming with life, but are no longer. The breath-taking calm of the Ugandan landscape is quickly disturbed by the suffocating sounds of people and high pitched calls of animals in panic. Images of airports are replaced by those of bullet-ridden rooms, and the suggestion of extermination is inescapable.

‘Love’ is a collection of twelve research photographs created during the production of her films. These images centre on ideas of betrayal, grief, love and violence, dramatically lighting desolate scenes to augment the sense of hollow space. One image, ‘Your sadness is drunk’, depicts several chickens pecking in a dusty abandoned site – like vultures feasting on a dry corpse, pecking on nothingness.

Bhimji’s work is awe-inspiring. And there is so much more to see than described here, with the exhibition easily taking an hour and a half to properly experience. The incredible investment of time on her part has unequivocally paid off, with balance of beauty and depression so fine that it brings tingles to the spine, ensuring that the viewer exits in a dream-like state, uneasy of the outside world. This is not an exhibition to be ignored! Words: Beatrix Jacot © 2011 ArtLyst

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