Talking fellowships and practice with 2019 Create NSW and Visual Arts Emerging Fellow Shivanjani Lal

Shivanjani Lal's Studio. Photo by Jacquie Manning, courtesy Parramatta Artists' Studios.

Shivanjani Lal’s Studio. Photo by Jacquie Manning, courtesy Parramatta Artists’ Studios.

On the eve of this year’s announcement of the 2020 Fellow at Artspace, hear from the 2019 Create NSW and Artspace NSW Visual Arts Emerging Fellow, Shivanjani Lal. Shivanjani discusses what she gained from the experience and gives advice to other emerging visual artists.

You were selected as the 2019 NSW Visual Arts Emerging Fellow and used the opportunity to fund a program of activity involving networking and skills development, research, a mentorship in India and London and the purchase of new equipment, culminating shooting new works in Fiji, India and the UK. Tell us a bit about that?

The program of activities included research about the centenary of the abolition of indentured labour that is marked this year.

The program had to shift partially as certain opportunities had to be pushed back due to the current global pandemic. I had to push back time in India and Fiji to next year, however, I am currently in London beginning my mentorship and starting my research into indenture.

What networking opportunities did you identify through your fellowship?

I was able to attend the Dhaka Arts Summit and build on relationships in Bangladesh. I am planning to do a residency there next year that was enabled by my visit, and I am hoping to create new relationships and opportunities in the UK and continue relationships in India and Fiji when I do my planned trips next year.

How has the experience benefited your artistic practice?

The experience of the fellowship has helped me slow down my practice and enabled me to feel confident in the work I am researching and making. It has also led to further exhibition and funding opportunities.

Through your artistic practice, you’ve indicated you want to explore the relationship to movement and migration of people through time. Can you tell us about your interest in this and how have you adapted your work through 2020 considering COVID-19?

I am interested in the Indian and Pacific Oceans’ migration history particularly in relationship to my own personal history. Through my I Am Not Here video works and performance where I erase the places I am from.

As 2020 is an important date – marking the centenary of the abolition of indentured labour, and personally because I have not been able to go to Fiji – I have instead become obsessed with the number 100 and used this number to make objects,100 small diiya’s and created a performance of burning haldi. I also spent more time in my studio at Parramatta Artists’ Studios, where I stitched 100 lines across a horizon to account for this historical moment, in stitched print work.

What advice would you give emerging visual artists applying for fellowships?

Be ambitious and think about how you want to grow, take risks. Be agile and brave in how you want to continue to establish your work whether in Australia or abroad. Consider the impact your future work could have on both yourself and your community. Also finally, keep trying. I applied three times and was accepted twice.

What’s next for you?

I have a few shows in Australia. In the new year, I have a show in the Fishers Ghost Prize that was curated by Sophia Cai, with a collaborative work I made with artists Amol K Patil and Niccolò Moscatelli, and Disobedient Daughters. However right now, I am enjoying being in London and I look forward to building relationships here and seeing as much art as possible.


Visit the 2020 NSW Visual Arts Emerging Fellowship exhibition at Artspace Sydney and see the works from this year’s eight finalists – Akil Ahamat, Tarik Ahlip, Tiyan Baker, Kate Brown, Dennis Golding, Julia Gutman, Nadia Hernández, and Kirtika Kain.

30 October – 13 December 2020

The announcement of the 2020 NSW Visual Arts Emerging Fellowship recipient will be streamed live online from Artspace on Thursday, 12 November from 5.45 PM AEDT. Register.

Image: Shivanjani Lal’s Studio. Photo by Jacquie Manning, courtesy Parramatta Artists’ Studios.