14 August 2017 was the 70th anniversary of the Partition of India. This exhibition does not tackle the ensuing bloodshed and horror full on, but looks to find an understanding of the harsh legacy of Imperialism. The semi-fictional catalogue tells how a vibrant young star artist of Lahore, Waqas Khan, and a Mughal miniature expert from Dover Street London, try to disentangle their Colonial/Imperialist past. It is a love story about being parted.
Shilpa Gupta supplies the introduction and conclusion to this novel exhibition. We open the show with the most delicate sewn drawings of Mango trees. The white thread correlates to the length of the Pakistan/Indian border. They are objects of contemplation and hope. The border is difficult to see, but people sit under the Mango tree sharing the fruit and talking. Gupta's video 100 Hand drawn Maps of India is composed of 100 different people's drawings of India. Every person's India is different.
The model for Raqs Media Collective's shortlisted suggestion for the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square is in the exhibition. It shows an empty ermine-rimmed cloak. Its title An Emperor's Old Clothes flips Hans Christian Andersen's tale to remind the danger of old thinking that still too many of us wear on a daily basis. The Purdy Hicks exhibition coincides with a one man show of Waqas Khan at the Manchester Art Gallery (Waqas Khan, 30 September 2017–25 February 2018). At the same time Raqs Media Collective are having a solo show at the Whitworth, Manchester (Twilight Language, 30 September 2017 – 25 February 2018). The catalogue, in the form of an illustrated novella, is produced and supported by Ayse Umur. The 17th-19th Century Indian paintings are lent by the Francesca Galloway Gallery.