In a new book and related exhibit at Surrey Art Gallery, Keerat Kaur’s “Panjabi Garden” offers an amalgamation of her “favourite worlds” honouring the mother tongue in which she uttered her first words.
The gallery’s winter shows opened Saturday (Jan. 21) with Kaur’s celebration of the Punjabi language and Gurmukhi script, in a collection of multimedia works including poetry, digital illustration, traditional painting and marble inlay.
Originally from London, Ontario, and now based in Vancouver, Kaur aims to bring viewers on a journey through “the lushness of language and script” during his very first art show in the Metro Vancouver region.
“I basically spent 2022 writing and illustrating the book, and it was released in December last year,” Kaur explained. “The idea of the book was to be an introduction to the Punjabi language and also the Gurmukhi script, which is one of the most prominant scripts Punjabi is written in. There are others, but that one is native to me and native to the majority of the Punjabi diaspora that hails from Punjab.”
As an architect and artist, Kaur said she used design and illustrative elements inspired from nature to connect to the Punjabi language — “not just visuals but also the themes and the ways I’ve spoken about the language,” said Kaur, who deliberately spelled the title with ‘a’ for both the book and exhibition.
“The title itself, ‘Panjabi Garden,’ alludes to this idea of a space within a natural world,” Kaur added. “And the book, it’s also meant to be the kind that anyone can pick up. Even if you don’t know Punjabi or Gurmukhi at all, the reader can follow it because there are translations and transliterations for everything.”
Kaur said she was keen to show “Panjabi Garden” in Surrey due to the city’s very large Punjabi-speaking population.
“I do feel like the community does a lot for the culture, but there hasn’t been as much celebration of the linguistic aspect of our culture, especially in gallery spaces like this,” she elaborated.
“I think it’s important to give the language that heightened space within the arts and cultural establishment. The gallery is situated in Bear Creek Park, and there are so many elders and young kids, people who hang around there, and many probably don’t know about this gallery. There are also a lot of people who speak the language but don’t necessarily know what it looks like when it’s written. I want to be able to highlight that.”
Kaur, also a musician, will sing Punjabi folk tunes that celebrate “Panjabi Garden” themes during an artist talk Friday night, Jan. 27, from 6 to 8 p.m. Two weeks later, on the afternoon of Saturday, Feb. 11, she’s lead a tour of the exhibition in Punjabi, from 2 to 4 p.m. Both events are free to attend.
The other new winter exhibit at Surrey Art Gallery is “Through the Lattice,” a group exhibit of “reimagined” architecture, craft and design by Alex Morrison, Parvin Peivandi, Lyla Rye, Tiffany Shaw, Edra Soto, David Umemoto and Robert Young.
”Where and how we inhabit space has been the subject of intense discussion as of late,” says exhibition curator Rhys Edwards. “Lockdown protocols, safe living spaces and affordable housing are very current topics. I wanted to organize an exhibition of artworks that demonstrates how many artists have been responding to the idea of dwelling in recent times.”
Also showing at SAG is “Cindy Mochizuki: Autumn Strawberry (Dance Film),” and opening Feb. 11 is the biennial exhibition “Art by Surrey Secondary Students: Connected.”
For details, visit surrey.ca/artgallery or call 604-501-5566.