Permindar Kaur, The Room – Contemporary Art Society

Niru Ratnam Gallery, Central London
Last chance tomorrow!


Since the 1990s, Permindar Kaur has investigated the territory of cultural identity, belonging and home in her sculptures and immersive room installations. After a ten-year long break from the art world, Kaur returned relatively recently to the studio to continue her distinctive artistic practice in which she often combines extremely contrasting materials such as textiles and metal.


When entering Kaur’s new exhibition, The Room at Niru Ratnam Gallery, you almost feel as if you are intruding into a stranger’s private bedroom. The centre piece Untitled (Bed), 2020, is composed of a welded steel bedframe and a group of brightly coloured round soft fleece objects in orange, red, blue, and green that lurk out from underneath the bed. At first, they appear to be children’s toys or soft cushions. On closer inspection it is clear that the seemingly comforting stuffed objects are embellished with sharp spikes of copper, poised to attack us at any moment.


Three fleece-covered rectangle collages with figures in dark green and blue at first also radiate a homely atmosphere. Yet again, the soft figures are contrasted with components of sharp metal and copper, radiating an atmosphere of anxiety. All sculptures and installations in the exhibition are handmade by Kaur. They are not ready-mades, and no external fabricators are involved.


Wound, 2022, consists of a group of small steel copper figures that were the result of her accidentally welding copper to steel in her studio. The fragility of the simplified figures is heightened by the way the metals interact on the surface of each work, resembling scars or wounds. Presented en masse on the gallery wall, the paper doll-like figures create a strong dichotomy of familiarity and visual and emotional disorientation.


The Room is a brave exhibition as the domestic space is still a contested site for women artists to explore. For Kaur, however, the home is intrinsically linked with social and political interpretations. The ‘uncanny’ within the domestic sphere still plays a major role in her practice. Kaur’s use of a variety of materials may encourage us to read her work as a woman’s response to male dominated art movements such as Minimalism. Thus, the exhibition can act as a platform to inscribe Kaur, a long-practising artist, who is of Sikh background, into the Western art historical canon.


The Room provides a space for open-ended associations and unforeseen thoughts: Kaur’s tactile room installations powerfully combine notions of the home with a sense of underlying threat in a time when the boundaries between public and private space are collapsing and the seemingly protected walls of our domestic home have become increasingly porous as the outside world can now sneak in through new digital technologies such as zoom.


It is definitively worthwhile to head to Soho tomorrow and take your last chance to immerse yourself into Kaur’s poignant ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’!


Christine Takengny
Senior Curator