“Our memories are based on our experiences and can dwell in either light or shadow. Some memories are strong and vibrant and sometimes they are buried in our subconscious, faint and blurred. Our memories may be filled with gaps, sometimes faded or just traces of a remembered moment in our past. ”
The Hanuman Mask
As a child, Surabhi was very fond of going out to fairs and shops with her grandparents. This Hanuman mask and gada were bought for her at the very first fair she went to. Here she is pictured pretending to be Hanuman.
As a child, Surabhi’s father would go with his father to get milk. Then in her childhood, Surabhi would accompany her grandfather on this task. She loved to tag along for two reasons: he would narrate stories of his youth in the village, and also for the Mother Dairy tokens they would exchange for milk.
She would watch and often try to help her mother make chutney on this Sil-batta, despite having an electric grinder in their house. To this day, this batta is sometimes used.
The Story Book
(Ghanti Wali Billi)
This is the first story book that Surabhi’s father gave her when she was 4. He would read the same story to her every night. This memory is coloured by the absence of Surabhi’s mother, who would be caught up in household chores at the time.
Surabhi used to play with this Chulha, which her grandmother would cook on.
It was handed down to Surabhi’s mother.
She keeps it in memory of her Dadi.
An Image of a Woman
She collected this cutting from an art magazine in her father’s collection.
The torn image of a woman sitting really touched her, and so she pasted it in her scrapbook.
This is a floor plan of Surabhi’s house, which holds memories in each corner.
These fragmented recollections are held both spatially and in the physical objects that she associates them with.
At a time when she began questioning the moulding of her identity as a woman, Surabhi looked around her household to understand how women occupied the domestic space she knew. Hitherto, her mother worked day and night to comply with the standards set for her as a woman, while in the present she supports Surabhi in exercising her autonomy. She was led to ponder upon the chaos and the dilemma she felt for her mother and family members. The result was a series of artworks that explore the past, and the passage to her present.
Old art magazines that her father bought for himself were used, as was a photograph of her mother working in the kitchen. She also attempted to engage with the ground plan of her house, combining archived and manipulated images with the hand-drawn and painted details. Her creative process was founded on searching, viewing, and observing her presence as a woman.
A large part of these explorations was carried out during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown, in the house she had lived in all her life. This space, alongside the manner in which it was inhabited by its residents, became the subject of her study.
A film of the space, her home.
Surabhi (she/her) recently completed her Master’s programme in Art History and Art Appreciation from Jamia Millia Islamia University and lives in Ghaziabad. She works across mediums and methods to dive into the interplay between the past and present, how memories mould our current lives. Through her artistic practice she is on a personal, autobiographical journey always evoking layered memories. Surabhi often goes back to memories, people and architecture as a starting point for her work.