The Anne Barrault Gallery is pleased to welcome Jagdeep Raina’s first solo exhibition in Paris. He will present a set of unpublished works, composed of embroideries and drawings.
The plurality of History is perhaps the main subject of Jagdeep Raina’works. His family, from the Kashmir region bordering the Punjab, emigrated to Canada in the sixties, because of the unstable political and community climate of the time, following the Partition of India and Pakistan in 1947. The departure of the British authorities from the region led to its violent division into two independent nation-States, along with huge displacements of people on both sides and beyond the new borders.
By his interest in various textile techniques (Kashmir embroidery, Punjab embroidery, shawl, phulkari, Jagdeep Raina reconnects and revives an ancestral heritage, nearing today disappearance. Besides, the techniques related to the use of textile have long been activities practiced by women, and they are still today very gendered. This reorganization of historical configurations does show his wish to question repressive orders, while revealing the decisional hierarchy at work with gender, class, caste, race, sexuality and geography. Therefore, Raina’s practice implies tradition and transgression in equal measure. In order to create his works, he draws his inspiration from historical or informal photographic sources he has found or made himself. With the fluid and malleable materials such as drawing, embroidered tapestry, writing, ceramics, animated videos, and lately a 35mm film, he uses reproduction and reappropriation strategies in order to disrupt the archives permanence. Raina questions the intimate relationships between personal archives and public archives, emphasizing what links us to History, so that we understand narratives that are beyond us.
For his first exhibition in France, Raina wishes to confront France with its orientalist and colonialist past. The Kashmir shawl, brought back from the Egyptian campaign by the French soldiers in 1798, becomes Josephine de Beauharnais’s favorite toilet requisite, then Marie-Louise of Austria’s, as well as Madame Rivière’s, whose portrait by Ingres in 1805 features one of these shawls in the foreground. The Kashmir shawl becomes a luxury item of clothing and is in fashion for the most part of the 19th century, until the trend decreases and leaves the workers of the region without resources. If Raina wants to refer to the violent modes of the exploitation and commercialization exerted by France at the time of the production of the fabrics of the day, he also sets up some kind of resistance. In a series of six drawings built up with a quilting technique, you can notice a Kashmiri woman going into a Kashmir textile store to have a hand-sewn, woven and embroidered coat fitted. She is seen posing while laughing warmly with the saleswomen. This scene does not depict a specific place or moment, but has rather an effect like a dream. This fantasy is powerful, since it makes an inversion by suggesting an alternative scenario in favor of those (men and women) who have been supervised, exploited and abused. Besides, the re-appropriation of the traditional Kashmiri garment as an item of costume and protection is part of this metaphorical reconquest of the territory, which is a recurring and moving theme in the artist’s work.