A new exhibition; Madhu Kumar: The Stories of Immigrant Women by Madhu Kumar, is showing at the Godfrey Dean Gallery in Yorkton until May 22.
“The women I have painted are bright, and hardworking,” notes the artist statement sent to media to preview the show. “They were going through rough times as they tried to settle into their new lives. Through my paintings, I want to show what it feels like to be alone, frustrated, sad, empty, confused, lost amidst strangers and new friends.
“The paintings help promote dialogue about being new to Canada. I want to offer a glimpse into the life of an immigrant woman during this challenging time. Some show despair; others are more hopeful; while some are more settled.
“Storytelling is not only the core of my work, but is also universally important. Human beings need to be seen and heard. Art is a vehicle through which I am empowering these women.”
Kumar, who was born and raised in India has learned her art by trying new things.
“I am primarily a self-taught visual artist who works from photographs and works intuitively,” she told Yorkton This Week.
“Growing up, I never took any art lessons of any sort, though I always was attracted to art and colours.
“I came to know about my interest in art after I finished my undergrad degree in India. I started with oil paintings. I was on my fourth painting when I got married. I had my children, and I became a stay-at-home Mom.
“After a gap of many years. I started painting, however, very occasionally. I always had a desire to pick up art again, but I had other commitments at the time.
“So, in 2010, I started painting again in Ottawa. I moved to Regina in 2012, after my children went to Universities, I thought of pursuing my dream to be an artist and I enrolled myself in a BFA program at the University of Regina. I finished my degree with honours in 2017.”
Now Kumar hopes her art helps those viewing it think about what the art says to them.
“I believe that visual art can be a powerful medium that can connect people to each other, and it allows for deeper understanding,” said the artist who prefers to paint in oils.
“The power of storytelling connects and empowers us. As an artist, I am seeking to explore how art inspires individuals to become advocates for positive social change.”
As for the show at the Godfrey Dean, “the visitors can see how immigrant women could transform themselves culturally and emotionally,” offered Kumar. “They will be able to relate to the stories and get many inspirations from each story.”
The show also offers more than the pictures on the wall.
“I have incorporated audio and augmented reality with my paintings,” said Kumar.
“Augmented Reality is the integration of digital information with the user’s environment in real time. Use your smart phones to experience AR. To do that one needs to download ‘Artivive’, a free app on your smart phones or IPads and simply place it in front of each painting. It will download and you will see the image coming alive and telling their story.”
So does the artist have a favourite work in the show?
“Each and every story and painting is my favourite because each one is so powerful, and has so much strength in it,” said Kumar.
“The stories of immigrant women grew out of deep empathy and a desire to bring to life the stories of women who had immigrated to Canada.
“Being an immigrant woman myself, I could relate and understand other immigrant women. I felt their pain. I witnessed many incredibly brave and unapologetic women facing real challenges.”
Locally, people might be familiar with the artist through the Yorkton Film Festival as well.
“Two years ago Jeremy Ratzlaff from CBC did a documentary on my project. I am proud to say that the documentary ‘Madhu Kumar’s Stories of immigrant women’ got nominated for the 2020 Yorkton Film Festival Golden Sheaf Award,” explained Kumar.
“I was quite curious to visit Yorkton to attend the YFF in 2020 to watch the documentary on big screen however because of the pandemic it didn’t happen.”
A link to watch the documentary is https://www.cbc.ca/arts/with-huge-portraits-and-augmented-reality-madhu-kumar-brings-you-the-real-voices-of-immigrant-women-1.5194154
To see the current exhibition, visit the gallery Monday-to-Friday 11 am to 5 pm, and Saturday 1 to 4 pm.