Curated by: cheyanne turions
9 February 2019 - 23 March 2019
Opening Reception 8 February 2019 7pm
Nep Sidhu is a Toronto-based interdisciplinary artist whose practice is concerned with reverberations of form, antiquity, myth and history through contemporary practice, poetics and politics. Sidhu’s first solo exhibition in Toronto, Medicine for a Nightmare (they called, we responded), focuses on his politicized use of textiles to conjure coalition beyond the structures that currently shape civic society, taking the 1984 massacre of Sikh people in India as its foundation. Known as Operation Blue Star, this military event resulted in the death of thousands of Sikh people—a religious minority in India—as well as the deaths of many others. Orchestrated by the Indian government to counter militant activist movements that sought to address the impoverished economic, social and political conditions of life for Sikh people in India, the raid unfolded at the Harmandir Sahib, a Sikh holy site.
Sidhu’s exhibition departs from this recent history to assert the resilience of Sikh people, both as a testament to their faith and as a response to inhumane political brutalities. Commemorating the spiritual role of tending to life in common, Sidhu has created a new body of work that includes a major tapestry, Medicine for a Nightmare (2019), that continues his When My Drums Come Knocking They Watch series. By examining the cultural role that percussion plays across cultures as a symbol of inheritance and becoming, Sidhu conjures a beat that carries ancestral connections forward in time. The exhibition also includes a new sculptural work, Formed in the Divine, Divine of Form (2019), that is charged with exemplifying the practices of community responsibility that characterize Sikh temple kitchens and cultivate cooperation through the practice of seva (selfless service). As gestures of memorialization, Medicine for a Nightmare (they called, we responded) participates in a continuum of material and memorial practices that seek to redress the 1984 massacre and the engineered attempts at erasure of the Sikh communities that followed it.
Medicine for a Nightmare (they called, we responded) also features works produced in dialogue with artists Nicholas Galanin and Maikoiyo Alley-Barnes, frequent collaborators of Sidhu’s, as well as contributions by Master Gunner Foxx, Thomas O’Brien/Bona Capello and Slow Riffs.
Medicine for a Nightmare (they called, we responded) is curated by cheyanne turions. The exhibition is co-produced by Mercer Union, Toronto and Esker Foundation, Calgary.
Support in part for the project is through the Ontario Arts Council’s grant for Aboriginal Curatorial Projects. Works in the exhibition have been produced with the support of the City of Toronto through the Toronto Arts Council.
Mercer Union thanks Exhibition and Publication Support Donors Anjli Patel & Parambir Keila.
(Nep) Nirbhai Singh Sidhu is an interdisciplinary artist who lives and works in Toronto. His art practice highlights conceptual and technical components originating from antiquity, with relevance for the present. His primary reference points are sound, language, architecture and adornment. Sidhu’s art practice resides along a continuum comprised of conceptual and technical components originating from ancestry, with relevance for the present. His sculptural practice combines language, light-baring materials and incantation thus creating a third space that unifies endless parallels and possibilities. This work is informed by the interplay of script, textile, the poetic wave of architecture and an affinity for community. Sidhu has previously shown works at exhibitions with the Museum of Contemporary Art, Toronto (2018); Art Mûr, Montreal (2018); The Heard Museum, Phoenix (2018); Art Gallery of York University, Toronto (2017); The Aga Khan Museum, Toronto (2017); Surrey Art Gallery (2016); among others.
cheyanne turions is a curator, cultural worker and writer concerned with art’s capacity to provoke otherwise possibilities. Currently, turions is the Curator at SFU Galleries and on the Board of Directors at 221A.
Image: Nep Sidhu, still from Shabazz Palaces’ Quazarz on 23rd, 2018. Digital video, 5 min. Courtesy the artist and Shabazz Palaces.