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Rina Banerjee

Indian-American Contemporary Artist
Born 1963, Kolkata, India
Lives and works in Manhattan, New York

Overwhelmingly ornate and lush sculptures carved out of feathers and holiday souvenirs, Banerjee explores the awkward and profuse in her art. The artist gave up her profession as a research chemist to pursue Art. She has exhibited in several museums and galleries and it is the fluidity of her form and content that makes her art so characteristic and peculiar.

Education

1995

Master of Fine Arts Painting and Print Making, Yale School of Art, USA

1993

Bachelor of Science Polymer Engineering, Case Institute of Technology, Western Reserve University, USA

 

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LIFE AND WORK

UNDERSTANDING Rina Banerjee

Tourist souvenirs are constantly used to re-imagine cultural signifiers

Souvenirs are an integral part of her work pertaining to her penchant towards travelling and the desire to do so as opposed to being tied down at one place. All the objects do retain some prior emotional, religious and cultural baggage associated with them but Banerjee reinterprets those with her daunting use of materials, ripping them off their cultural prejudices. Even culturally sanctioned visual stereotypes of these souvenirs are restructured to provide a fresher meaning.

Take me, Take me, Take me... to the Palace of Love, 2003, is a restructuring of the Taj Mahal. The white marbled architectural wonder or the mini Taj Mahal souvenir that she had picked up in India is re-imagined as a shocking pink one made out of rose-coloured Reynolds plastic wrap. This perpetually circulating image of the souvenirs or even the original object is re-invented to strip any stagnant visual markers and make it more fluid and dynamic.

Rina Banerjee, Take me, take me, take me…to the Palace of love, 2003, plastic, antique Anglo-Indian Bombay dark wood chair, steel and copper framework, floral picks, foam balls, cowrie shells, quilting pins, red coloured moss, antique stone globe, glass, synthetic fabric, shells, fake birds, 161.4" x 161.4" x 226.4".

Cosmopolitanism and cultural interactions are constantly mapped in her art

Migrating from a different country and settling down in a foreign land, her artworks explore in intriguing detail the musings of a displaced soul. Often identified as surreal and animated, her installations are a diasporic experience owing to her mixed cultural interactions with the world. Born in Calcutta, growing up in London and now living in New York has given her a greater degree of cosmopolitanism to experience and experiment with in her art. Her affliction of always trying straddle between different worlds and not being tied to any country or community gives her an ample room to fuse diverse subjects and materials in her art.

Upon civilising home an absurd and foreign fruits ripened, made food for others, grew snout, tail and appendage like no other, 2010, is a plush Victorian chair with trunk of an elephant protruding out of the backseat. This allusion to the elephant headed god Ganesha in Hindu mythology and a Victorian study setting invest in an East-West fused reference.

Rina Banerjee, Upon civilizing home an absurd and foreign fruit grew ripened, made food for the others, grew snout, tail and appendage like no other, 2010, mixed media, 40 x 30 x 40".

Titles of her works are often long-winding, misspelt, both trivial and provocative

Rina's works are always titled consciously in a child-like fashion-jumbled, lengthy and twisted with spelling errors. These playful titles insinuate her choice to treasure the cultural confusions and disagreements that emerge in and during mixed cultural interactions. She chooses to play with the language, twist it-turn it and let logic not be a hurdle in the flow of words.

Some of the titles include Can you believe the beast in her beauty was born out of a vilified attack on her mother's moment when she and she a shared sexuality, 2000, She drew a premature prick, in a fluster of of transgressions, abject by birth she new not what else to do with this untouchable reach, unknowable body as she was an ancient savage towed into his modern present, 2011, and Her captivity was once someone's treasure and even pleasure but she blew and flew away took root which grew, we knew this was like no other feather, a third kind of bird that perched on vine intertwined was neither native nor her queens daughters, a peculiar other, 2011.

Rina Banerjee, Preternatural passage came from wet whiteness and mercantile madness, paid for circular migrations, she went thirty six directions this is all the more different, where empire threw her new born and heritage claimed as well, this lady bug was not scarlet her wound was rather shaped like garlic seemed coloured, a bit more sulphuric, could eat what was fungus her cloth punctuated by tender greenness she seemed to be again pregnant, 2011.

An expansive and eclectic range of materials define her art

Rina's material range varies widely across occasional taxidermy alligators to tourist souvenirs. Materials used by her are exotic and lush and often not pertaining to a certain category. The exploration of material for her is very exquisite and individualistic, breaking the monotony of elitism or visual limitations. Fish bone, ostrich eggs, light bulbs, amber vials, skulls, coloured fans, eggs stringed to feathers and umbrellas are some of the highlights. This variety in range rejects any hierarchy in materials or prejudice towards any cultural value or significance.

I will get you my pretty, 2009, is a multimedia installation by the artist which uses bottles, cowrie shells, steer skulls, plastic animals, stones, crochet lace among other things. Bringing together these varied materials in a single piece often creates a challenge, conceptually as well as aesthetically, but Rina's assemblages are epic in nature, creating worlds onto themselves. Through this installation, Rina imagines the origin as the suspended dome from which rivers emerge and a terrain is created using all these materials, reimagining rivers as sources of power and sustenance, along with destruction.
 

Rina Banerjee, I'll get you my pretty!, 2009, bottles, fans, cowrie shells, dancing bells, glass vials, Texas Long horn steer skulls, porcelain, sarees, pewter toy soldiers, plastic animals and soldiers, stones, moss, globe, Chinese tea-straining spoons, feathers, crochet lace, glass light bulbs mica, 335 x 595 x 325 cm.

Rina Banerjee, I'll get you my pretty! (detail), 2009,

Mythological and anthropological imageries are profuse, as well as the experiential nature

There are vivid influences of mythology-fairytales, gods, demigods, anthropology and ethnography in her artworks. Tracing trajectories of races, migratory forces, cultural paradigms, dogma, beliefs and her desire to tread into the fantastical appear in her works. Her curiosity towards the unknown or the other manifests itself by creating spaces that reinterpret accepted spatial occupations. Her sculptures are often hanging from the ceiling or cantilevered out from the wall. Unapologetic and innovative her artworks deny offering any explanation. Neither her forms nor titles give out anything in the pedantic linear fashion. Everything in her art is an experience which might be different for each spectator.

The experiential nature of her work also stems from the interactive invitation of the audience for her art. The large-scale nature of some of her art enables viewers to engage with the particulars of the work and immerse themselves, instituting different perspectives and views.

Detail from the inside of the installation Take me, Take me, Take me..., 2003.

Bibliography