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Reena Saini Kallat

Indian Contemporary Artist
Born 1973, New Delhi
Lives and works in Mumbai

Reena Kallat is a mixed media artist, working with painting, video, photography, sculpture and installations. Her work engages immensely with the potentials of representation in art. She uses lost names, cities, places, identities in her work to highlight experiences of loss and violence.



Bachelor of Fine Arts (Painting), Sir J.J School of Art, Mumbai


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UNDERSTANDING Reena Saini Kallat

Engagement with the city space as an exploration of evolution

One would not necessarily relate her exploration with the city as maps, but is an analogy of its histories and constant change of juxtaposing the past with the present.

Her series Falling Fables, 2011, documents various parts of the city of Delhi, where ruins from the past rub shoulders with present-day structures, revealing the many contradictions and the shifting nature of urban landscape.

Reena Saini Kallat, Untitled, 2011, acrylic on canvas, from the Falling Fables series.

In her most recent work, however, she makes use of a world map to comment on identity of citizens. Cities like Delhi, Vancouver, Mumbai etc. The installation at Vancouver is titled Woven Chronicles. in this work, Kallat traces the migration routes of indentured labourers, asylum seekers, travellers, and professionals who travelled between India and Sweden. Modern cities do not have indigenous populations but settlers at various points in history and this is what Kallat explores in Woven Chronicles as she traces the route of settlement with barbed wires also hinting at the fact that we have increasingly become an intolerant culture with our closed borders and barbed fences.

Reena Saini Kallat, Woven Chronicle, 2015, circuit boards, speakers, electrical wires and fittings, site-specific installation at Vancouver Art Gallery Offsite.

Reena's works attempt to re-imagines the relationship between public art, its space and audience

Reena’s work not only re-examines the medium of art work, but also the space of exhibition. Her particular interest lies in re-imagining the art space with public art projects where the interactions between art and audience take up multitudes of meanings. Her work attempts to dislodge any restriction that might impinge on an artwork inside a gallery or museum space, but allow for the artwork to explore new plurality of interactions.

Untitled Cobweb (knots and crossing), 2013, was strung together on the façade of the restored Dr Bhauji Daji Lad Museum. This allows for a wider assortment of viewers to interpret and contribute meanings to the art and space it occupies.

Reena Saini Kallat, Untitled Cobweb (knots and crossing), 2013, on the façade of Dr Bhauji Daji Lad Museum.

She uses objects denoting marked absence or loss in popular imagination

Her works feature rubber stamps, public documents, tattoos among many other media. She particularly makes use of stamps because of its symbolic meaning as a bureaucratic apparatus, confirming and obscuring identities.Her work also symbolically voices loss and erasures within a social context.

For instance, in Synonym series, 2009, rubberstamps are used to make portraits of individuals who are lost either through natural calamities such as landslides, floods, earthquakes; or gone missing during riots or large scale mishaps; names of those abducted or absconding, with the police still trying to ascertain their whereabouts.

Reena Saini Kallat, Synonym, 2009, acrylic paint, rubberstamps, plexiglass, 60 in x 45”.

Marginal characters find focal portrayal in her work

Reena’s constant engagement and narrative openings with the marginalised individuals, spaces and objects reveal her preoccupation with subaltern histories and their interactions. This accounts for a certain activism in her work which makes the silent and suppressed points the focus.

Her much earlier work, Braiding the Line, 2002, acrylic and cement primer on canvas, the tricolour is weaved by not a politician but by a fishermen, a peripheral figure in the modern nation’s imagination.

Reena Saini Kallat, Braiding the Line, triptych, 2002, acrylic and cement primer on canvas.

In her recent works too she continues to deal with the paradox that is citizenship. While the nation-states provide equal rights to all citizens, not all have access, knowledge and power to claim them. These disenfranchised citizens are represented in Silt of Season (2008) and Synonym (2007). In the latter works she builds huge 6 ft portraits of ordinary people with rubber stamps. From far they looked burnt and scarred just like those marginalised citizens who have been left suffering and in pain due to lack of help from government and beaureaucracy.

Reena Saini Kallat , Silt of Seasons-1, 2008, single channel video projection on sand, duration 59 min 30 s, dimension variable