Press, Press and More Press!

Over the month of August and into early September, my project entitled “Upping the Aunty” has received a wave of positive press. NPRNBCMidday, The Times of India, The Hindu and others have written about the project and shared photographs from the aunty street style tumblr. Countless others have shared the project through Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Little did I know when I started this project that the ubiqutous “Aunty,” her presence and her style, would touch the hearts and minds of thousands of people. From the brilliant historian and critic of Indian culture, Vijay Prashad (who tweeted about the project), to the incredible actor Lisa Ray (who is now a follower), “Upping the Aunty” has people talking about the once forgotten about “Aunty” with her socks with open-toed sandals to her runners with salwars!


Several months ago, I realized that I had lost touch with the most important tool a visual artist can have: a sketchbook. Somewhere along the way, my attention shifted from the simple pleasure of marks on paper to a more involved project of "producing" paintings. I became focused on the end product, not the process.

Then, this past Winter, I was travelling, staying in different homes and spaces. I did not always have a studio from where I could paint, or a way to transport my paintings from city to city, or country to country. Meanwhile, through train, autorickshaw and pedestrian journeys in multiple Indian cities, my senses were being inundated. But I was left with a feeling of disconnection to my art, a loss of magic.

A small 8.5 inch x 6 inch notebook given to me by a very special person changed all that. For a few weeks, the notebook travelled with me wherever I went, unopened.
And then, the creative floodgates opened.

The very first sketch I made came easily to me: a pattern made up of various black marks arranged over a lined grid. As is my style, I proceeded to colour in the pattern I drew and then, right there, an idea emerged.

This was going to be my #30daychallenge that I had wanted to do for so long! The project that I had been putting off for so long, waiting for the "right" time to begin. 30 days of 30 different drawings, all following a theme or process. What I hadn't planned for, however, was that each complete drawing took anywhere from 2-5 hours. How does one find this time every day when travelling, visiting family and crossing multiple time zones to set up a new home?

Maybe there never is a perfect time to start something new.

And so, 30 days turned into 60. But everything begins somewhere. Even the most beautiful tall redwood tree begins with a small seed in the earth. A simple sketch is like that. Now, I have a joyful daily practice that is nourishing many new beginnings.

Watch the flipagram that captures all 30 or see them individually on my instagram.


Upping the Aunty in Mumbai

#uppingtheaunty. I'm here in Mumbai, India upping the ante on street style. As part of my one-month artist residency in Mumbai, I am documenting "aunties" with swag. Mostly this consists of "aunty-spotting" and then explaining in my broken Hindi that I like how they put themselves together and want to document and celebrate this through my art. Some aunties are indulgent and flattered while others are suspicious. I always ask permission before taking a snap.

I'm interested in changing the game on fashion. Who do we think is fashionable? How do we determine what style is? Who creates cool? South Asian aunties rock to their own beat. They bring the tradition in fresh ways and are deeply interested in personal expression through clothing. Aunties also hold a special place in our hearts, particularly in the global South Asian diaspora.

In South Asian culture, an aunty may or may not be a biological relation. She may be a friend of the family or a stranger. But if she is older than you – old enough to be your mother's friend – then she is accorded the status of aunty. Neither our mothers nor part of our peer group, aunties may be trusted confidantes or gatekeepers of social decorum.

With the new work, I will pay homage to the fabulousness of aunty style and the importance of their role as transmitters of social and cultural knowledge and practices.

Follow this project through my open studio tumblr or instagram.

Who's your aunty? Do you dig her style. Post a photo on your preferred social network with the hashtag #uppingtheaunty and make sure to tell me about it!

Church Street Mural Completed!

Just one day before this season's first snowfall, I completed my 4-storey mural as part of the Church Street Mural Project in Toronto. As temperatures dropped to an icy 0 °C, I worked long hours to put every last stripe of gold paint on the brick wall. It was the first mural I have ever painted and what a journey it was!

The mural took over 24 cans of paint (all different colours), 16 rolls of tape, 20 paintbrushes (used many times over), 4 buckets, 6 rollers (also washed many times over), 2 paint trays, 4 levels of scaffolding, 1 paint sprayer, 1 very long rope, 1 very long extension cord, 1 hairdryer (yes, you heard that right), 2 angle levels, 1 tsquare, 1 measuring tape, 1 laser mouse, 1 roll of "caution" tape, 2 neon pylons, 2 tarps, 1 step stool, 1 ladder, numerous rags and newspapers, 4 pairs of work gloves, 2 pairs of knee pads, 1 pair of coveralls, numerous layers of clothing, 2 hats, 3 socks, and most important of all, 7 volunteers... you get the point. It was a production!

Perhaps one of the nicest moments of the process was on one cold Sunday afternoon. I was about about halfway into my mural, when I was contemplating a day of clambering up the scaffolding to begin marking diagonal lines across brick and windows... It was an impossible job for just one person to do, yet no one else was available to help. And the weather in Toronto had turned cooler. Was I going to be able to see this project through?

And then the universe sent me a message in the form of a complete stranger, Christopher Rouleau, who had heard of this project through one of the curators.

Chris was a blessing to me that day - and for many other days. I would not have been able to complete this project without his kind, generous and consistent help.

Chris is also a creative soul. He is a talented graphic designer and typographer who has recently launched some new products on his online store, one of which is a gorgeous black and gold lithograph titled "Be Kind." Chris, thank you for living your words.

I would also like to thank: the many businesses in the Church Wellesley community for their support of my project, particularly Ho's Team Barbers and Novack's Pharmacy; the curators of the CSMP, Syrus Marcus Ware and James Fowler for thier dedication and vision and the organizers of this project; Counsellor Kristyn Wong-Tam, Sheila and Tristan from the City of Toronto for their hard work and many long hours of preparation, the project sponsors and of course all the other artists who were also a part of the Church Street Mural Project. Without them, there would be no murals!

Wedge Collection, Toronto

In excited to announce that an important Canadian art collection "Dr. Kenneth Montague / The Wedge Collection, Toronto" has acquired two works from the Foreign Returned series. The Wedge Collection began showcasing and promoting works exploring notions of black subjectivity and cultural representation and quickly became a well-respected initiative that filled a gap in Toronto’s art community. The collection includes works by Edward Burtynsky, Shirin Neshat, Samuel Fosso and Hassan Hajjaj among others.

Sudha Subramanium (Sue) and K. Swaminathan (Sam) I wish you the best on your onward journey!

Sudha Subramanium (Sue)

K. Swaminathan (Sam)

Foreign Returned Opening Night Photos

Opening night for my solo exhibition of new works, Foreign Returned, at the Sofitel on Collins in Melbourne was a huge success! As a (long-term) visitor to Melbourne, I was thrilled with the turnout. There were people from so many different communities and walks of life, some that I knew and many that I didn't.

A special thank you to Monica, Ben and Chris for documenting that night!

Melbourne Love

Bye bye Melbourne! I'm gonna miss you!

After spending nearly one and a half years in the wonderful city of Melbourne, Australia, I have finally said goodbye.

Melbourne, with your streets filled with mural, graffitti and wall art, your dozens of gorgeous local cafes (L'atelier de Monsieur Truffe), the best coffee outside of Italy (Seven Seeds), fantastic earth-friendly, healthy food (Yong Green Food), a thriving regional contemporary art community with museum presence (NGV), random, amazing acts of craft and crochet, cast-iron lace balconies, the uplifting scent of eucalyptus trees, all things stylish, and fantastic people, I miss you.

As I return to Toronto, Canada, I would like to say a very special thank you to all the wonderful people and businesses that made me feel welcome in Australia and helped me navigate this new city: Global Arts ProjectsBlak Dot GalleryFitzroy StretchesSt. Luke Artist ColourmenHayden Golder PhotographyThe Orange MystiqueThe Highway GalleryFrames ReadymadeTextaQueenSangeeta Sandrasegar, Mark the Mechanic, fellow artists and friends. I couldn't have been there without you!