Lead artist - Kashif Nadim Chaudry
Artist , Croome
Kashif Nadim Chaudry - Lead Artist
Can you tell us about your career so far
I’m a Nottingham born, based and bred visual artist, predominantly making sculpture and installations. I graduated from the Textiles BA at Goldsmiths College, London and have been practicing as an artist since around 2010, when I had my first solo exhibition in Nottingham. My route into textiles came through a family history in tailoring, my Mum is a tailor as were her parents, so I’ve grown up with fabrics and a love of craftsmanship.
I’ve had various solo exhibitions such as ‘Swags & Tails’ at the Asian Triennial, Manchester in 2014 and ‘MEMES’ at Lakeside Arts, University of Nottingham, which was the end product of being artist in residence for two years. More recently in 2016, a unique exhibition I had was at the Turner Contemporary in Margate, where I worked collaboratively with the Turner Contemporary Studio Group to create a new work.
The Studio Group were 19 local makers, artists and craftspeople and collectively they were the commissioning body that selected to work with me and so together, over a period of about a year and a half, we created a largescale sculptural installation: ‘The Three Graces’ which was a weaving together of all of our skills.
What drives you?
I’m very driven by materiality, my love for fabric is very evident but I also like working with materials such as sand, soil and human hair. I love surfaces, embellishment and decoration and in a way what these three things have in common is that they are all skins and patinas and I love the artifice inherent within that.
I’m also fascinated by the possibilities of three dimensions; of sculpture essentially and of the way in which a 3d object will always have a relationship to the human form; I guess to me specifically. Recently I have been exploring the possibilities of installation and of the way in which sculpture can occupy a gallery space. Last year I had an exhibition at the Ort Gallery in Birmingham: ‘Beloved: The Somerset House Conference’ and it was the first time I made work which physically took a bite out of the gallery, by this I mean that the work was so large, that it dictated the way in which audiences navigated the space.
This is something I’m excited about at the moment, the possibilities of channelling and controlling the viewer and of how they move.
At the heart of both of these concerns; of skins and of movement, is the desire to understand my place in the world, as a Queer, British, Pakistani Muslim man. All of these different intersections have made me aware of the narratives we spin around our lives and also the performance of belonging and I passionately believe that creativity can be an extraordinary vehicle which takes us some way towards understanding who we are.
How challenging has this project been to work on, what have been the challenges?
There have been several challenges. I think firstly working with vulnerable people is, by its very nature a challenge. I was genuinely nervous of working with the young adults and children currently in the care system and to broach such a personal and very pertinent topic as what does home mean to you. Similarly, working with the ex-pupils was also somewhat daunting primarily because of the unknown in terms of what their experiences might have been. I’m glad to say however, that in both instances, it was a real privilege to hear a very wide range of stories from all participants; some difficult and some beautiful and moving and these are reflected in the wide variety of objects which have been so generously loaned to us for the duration of the exhibition.
On a more practical note, working within a National Trust property has also thrown up a few challenges. It’s my first commission with this organisation and of course the fact that you’re making work for a heritage site, comes with a range of restrictions which must be upheld and respected. For example, thinking about the overall weight of any work produced and whether this will impact the fabric of the building. And also having to be more considerate of the types of materials being brought into the building. Generally, if you’re making work for a gallery space, there’s a greater sense of freedom in terms of taking risks not only with the work but also the building as well. As you can imagine the overriding need to preserve and maintain a 17th century stately home, takes precedent above all things.
Why did you want to work on this project – what inspired you about the way of working (through participation), place (Croome) and the story (inspired by the Boy’s School story this became a project about ‘care’ and ‘What is Home’).
I mentioned earlier about working with the Turner Contemporary Studio Group and of what a unique experience it was. This was partly because the group spent a year selecting and short listing an artist to work with and they were very much instrumental in producing the work, from that initial selection, right the way through to install and opening. It was a great way of democratising the curatorial process; of bringing audiences, artists and galleries together in a unique manner.
I believe this project also does something similar, by showcasing the objects given over by members of the public and using these as the vehicle for exploring the idea of home. These objects have thus become treasures and will be treated accordingly and it’s very fitting that they be displayed within a stately home, which, by its very definition, is also a treasure box.
There’s also something very poetic about the ex-pupils once again having a presence within the house, albeit many years later and also the telling of this story, of the school, which was one of many chapters in Croome’s history.
What do you hope the exhibition achieves – what could this exhibition do in the term of how people consider their own lives?
I think the timing of this exhibition is very pertinent because I believe that the currents of the world seem to be churning at an alarming rate. On a global scale, the plight of refugees and migrants play out on our news screens almost daily and the very idea of home goes to the core of these issues. I also think, on a domestic level, Brexit seems to have de-stabilised the very foundations of what it means to be British and of our place in the world. Within the second contextualisation room, there will be a space for reflection, specifically for visitors to consider not only the work and stories on display but also the opportunity for them to write what home means for them and to leave a piece of their story. I have made a sculpture which resembles a wishing well specifically for this purpose, so that the idea of what is home continues beyond the exhibition and is added to.
What challenge do you want to plant in people’s brains – what’s your message?
The piece I’ve created in the main exhibition space is inspired partly by the tombs of Islamic saints. Often the grave of the saint is surrounded by a simple fretwork structure, primarily to protect the grave but also to create a sense of reverence and mystery. The cabinet I have created also uses an elaborate fretwork design to create a sacred space which houses all the objects given over to us. I also wanted to create a sense of mystery and in so doing, elevate the contents of the cabinet, which after all, are the treasures of this exhibition. I hope that this veiling of the objects will encourage visitors to spend time looking over them and to read the accompanying stories of each object, which will be displayed on the walls.
There will also be kinetic elements within this structure, which will continuously move. Movement has been very important within my own family history, my Grandparents were born in India, my parents in Africa and my self and my generation in Britain. Movement has also played a fundamental part within the lives of all the workshop participants and also the idea of home changes as we move through life. I hope that visitors will pick up on this.
What outcome do you have in mind, what do you want people to go away with?
At the end of the day it’s the beautiful stories that are attached to these objects and the objects themselves, which for me bringing this exhibition to life. It’s been a real privilege to hear these stories, in all their colourful variety and I hope that visitors to the exhibition will have a sense of this, of what an honour it is to have a fleeting glimpse into the lives of people who may not have had a ‘traditional’ sense of home.