Permindar Kaur: Comfort of Little Places
Quite possibly, this particular showing of Permindar Kaur's work offers us a unique and fascinating exhibition opportunity. Comfort of Little Places is being shown at Fabrica - a magnificent shell of a redundant and deconsecrated Victorian church. Though the building has been given over for use as an art gallery, much of what makes a church a place of Christian/religious worship still remains. There is the wonderfully imposing pulpit - itself reminiscent of the minbars that were traditionally used by imams to call the faithful to prayer from mosques across countries such as Egypt and Turkey. There are the stained-glass windows, the wooden panelling, and the physical evidence of removed pews. But most of all, within Fabrica, there is the feeling of the building itself. There is no escaping the extent to which it feels like a former place of worship. And it is precisely this sense, this feeling, that offers us a range of near-literal reference points from which to consider Kaur's work. Of course, were Kaur's work simply located in a modernist 'white cube' type of gallery - as it has been many times previously - such is the power of these pieces that we could still enter into much meaningful dialogue with them. But within the context of Fabrica, these pieces somehow feel at home and work extremely well.
The instinct of many artists exhibiting within Fabrica might be to fight against the space, to try, in some or other desperate way, to dominate or ignore the overwhelming nature and resonance of the structure. But Kaur has no time for such knee-jerk strategies. Coming from a Sikh background, she has an outsider's view of Christianity. And yet, she has no desire for her work to dominate or defeat the space. She seeks instead to present a carefully selected body of work that quietly compliments and quietly respects the architectural and spiritual sensibilities of the building.
Setting formal replies to one side, what is a church? It is a place of sanctuary, a place of safety, a site of comfort and solace and nurturing. And with its pews and its exquisite font built into an alcove, the very building - this particular building - offers the comfort of little places and intimate spaces. In many, many ways, these readings (and a concurrent questioning of them) flow unhindered from Kaur's work. After all, we cannot deny that much of Kaur's work is about defining and giving form to notions of sanctuary, safety, solace and comfort, in a variety of ways that wholly and emphatically refuse to acknowledge sentimentality. Fabrica is, quite possibly, a perfect setting for Kaur's work…
The above extracts are from a brochure text written by Eddie Chambers, for Permindar Kaur's exhibition at Fabrica, Brighton, Comfort of Little Places, 12 September - 18 October 1998. The full text appears in Run Through the Jungle, INIVA, London, 1999