British artist Tatiana de Stempel explores racism and colour in her new show.
A few months ago, I remember a few photographs popping up on my Facebook wall—regular people, black, brown, white, posing with their tongues out. Because no matter what colour you are, your tongue is always pink. The message was so simple yet poignant, it made me pause. The mind behind it, I read, is that of Tatiana de Stempel, a London artist who is currently taking her multi-media project, What Colour Would You Choose?, around the country. And she is in town today, exhibiting her series of portraits in film, photography and painting at Art Houz.
“The project arose out of a discussion with (author-critic) Manoj Nair at the Indian Art Fair 2014, after seeing Binoy Varghese’s work—paintings of people with dark skin. The discussion threw up how there are so many issues that are unresolved about skin colour and I wanted to make an enquiry into what people thought about it,” Stempel tells me, explaining it took her two years to finish the project. For both the film and photographs, she approached people on the streets in India and the UK and asked them what they thought about colour and, of course, if they would stick their tongues out! “I went up to four Muslim women in Piccadilly Circus and they were very jolly about posing with their tongues out, which was great as they usually seem so serious,” recalls the artist, who unveiled her show at BC Gallery in Fort Kochi, Kerala, earlier this year. Today’s exhibition will be followed by a panel discussion tomorrow, moderated by Nair—which will address “our obsession with colour, fairness creams, etc”—and a free painting workshop for
children (11 am to 1 pm) on Sunday.
—Surya Praphulla Kumar