Modern Muse, Arpita Shah
Centre for British Photography, Mezzanine Gallery
49 Jermyn St, St. James’s, London SW1Y 6LX
5th October – 17th December 2023 | Free Entry
Drawing from and subverting the conventions of Mughal and Indian miniature paintings from ancient to pre-colonial times, Arpita Shah’s Modern Muse visually and conceptually explores the ever-shifting identities and representations of South Asian women in contemporary Britain. The portraits give an insight into the perspectives of what it means to be a young British and Asian woman. Shah examines the intersections of culture and identity, drawing on the women’s lived experiences and her own journey and life. Commissioned by GRAIN projects, this body of work has not been shown in London before.
Arpita Shah was born in Ahmedabad in India and spent an earlier part of her life living between India, Ireland and the Middle East before settling in the UK. This migratory experience is reflected in her practice, which often focuses on the notion of home, belonging and shifting cultural identities. In Modern Muse she does this in collaboration with women who are also artists, creatives and educators based in Birmingham and the West Midlands. The portraits were collaborative in nature and during their participation the women spoke of their own experiences.
Shah’s work often draws from Asian and Eastern mythology, using it both visually and conceptually to explore issues of cultural displacement in the South Asian diaspora. She states: “As a South Asian artist it was important to challenge representations of South Asian women in Mughal and Indian miniatures, but also comment on the visibility of women of colour as ‘Muses’ in Western art history. I made Modern Muse for South Asian girls and women, for them to feel represented.”
Exhibited at the same time as Modern Muse at the Centre for British Photography will be The 50th anniversary of Daniel Meadows’ Free Photographic Omnibus and Charlie Phillips’s 50-year work on Afro Caribbean funerals in London. Community-focussed work of Grace Lau’s Chinese portrait studio; and Dorothy Bohm’s photographs of London street markets.