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Nep Sidhu: In Conversation

SR3Y is interested in the culture of things. We love the mediums… blogs, clothes, art, language, information and knowledge. It’s what we live for.

So when Jordan Strom, Curator of Exhibitions and Collections at Surrey Art Gallery, first told us that Toronto’s Nep Sidhu was going to premiere his ‘Shadows in the Major Seventh’ exhibition of work here in Surrey, we pretty much fell over ourselves to see the show before anyone else.

Unfortunately for Jordan, we used words like ‘multidisciplinary’ and ‘complexity’ repeatedly in the space of a few minutes in order to score an exclusive interview with Nep. Anyway, somehow our energy and charm must have swayed him, because the week after the opening (on Friday, April 9th) we got Nep on the phone to get inside his head.

Here’s the thing you need to know first… Nep Sidhu has no intention of ‘doing artwork’.

His approach is more like a holding a lab-oriented remix session of the things that have always been part of our culture. His ‘art’ is not about him… his work is about the people and ideas that have become a part of his life.

Courtesy of the artist

(Courtesy of the artist)

So, what is it, Nep, that you actually do? Sculpture, sure… textile design… but how does early Arabic calligraphy and Malcolm X fit with a clothing line called Paradise Sportif and a series of seven-foot-square paintings with inlaid brass and sheet-veneer marble?

Yeah, the media and the practice are the tools… and they are respected for the tools and skills that they are. When the medium itself is the tool, the tool itself becomes the art. No labels fit.

And what else is a medium? Time. Time is a discipline and a medium. I do all my work by hand. Time is part of the work. No automation, no looms. I’m a welder by trade, and learned to fabricate sheet metal with my dad. Now I learn any craft I need to learn: painting, sewing, making patterns…

My work is about understanding themes, and the more mediums I have at hand, the better story I can tell. And the story, the narrative, I brought to Surrey is a way I can reach my people. In a place like Surrey, in the right hands, I can explore my people’s voices by sharing themes.

It’s historical, and it points to all the things we are now. I want the people of Surrey to see themselves in my work, and to see that their voice does matter. That they do not need to limit their range of emotions. That they can connect with my work to hear the voice in themselves.

‘Shadows in the Major Seventh’ is in exhibition until Thursday, June 2nd, at Surrey Art Gallery. Take the opportunity to visit the exhibition on Friday May 6 from 8 to 11pm for The Surrey Art Gallery’s inFlux event—a night of art action that blends time-honoured traditions in music, dance, and visual art with contemporary styles. 

(Featured photo courtesy of the Surrey Art Gallery; Photo: Brian Foreman)