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Culture Days will return September 20 – October 13, 2024.

Swapnaa Tamhane: No Surface is Neutral


Fibre & textile arts Intercultural Visual arts
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This activity runs the duration of Culture Days.


Surrey Art Gallery

13750 88 Ave

Surrey, BC



Offered in English.

Wheelchair accessible.


Textiles in India carry the weight of imperial, colonial, and nationalist histories in their fibres. Cotton in particular has shaped India’s ancient trade, provided the impetus for India’s colonization, and was a powerful political symbol leading to liberation from colonial rule. In this exhibition, artist Swapnaa Tamhane explores the material and conceptual resonances of cotton through the manipulation and treatment of surfaces. Through this process, she pushes back on colonial ideas and their contemporary manifestations.

The exhibition features two bodies of work displayed side by side. The first are textile works made in collaboration with artists in western India from the region of Kutch. They are arranged in sweeping architectural forms that reference the Mughal and Ottoman shamiana (imperial tent), industrial textile production, and the shimmering mirrored walls of mud homes, layered with motifs from a mid-century modern building.

The second body of work is drawings on paper handmade by Tamhane from cotton cloth including khadi (hand-spun cotton) that has been deconstructed down to its base fibres and reconstituted. In these works, drawing can take any form of mark-making—from pencil or ink on paper to folding, crumpling and mixing paper pulps even before the paper has dried. Textile work is like drawing for Tamhane, a layering of gestures that can connect through time and space to many hands including her own: a community/collective, an intervention, a form of resistance.

Textile work is like drawing for Tamhane, a layering of gestures that can connect through time and space to many hands including her own: a community/collective, an intervention, and a form of resistance. By engaging in Gujarat and Kutch regional histories, Tamhane brings them into dialogue with imperial and global textile histories in the twentieth century. The artworks ask: how can patterns address pivotal moments in history, and how can ornament represent a decolonial condition?

"Swapnaa Tamhane: No Surface is Neutral" is guest curated by Deepali Dewan, the Dan Mishra Curator of South Asian Art and Culture at the Royal Ontario Museum.

Image Credit: Swapnaa Tamhane with Salemamad Khatri and Mukesh, Pragnesh, and Avdhesh Prajapati and Bhavesh Rajnikant, with assistance from Sine Kundargi-Girard,

"Mobile Palace (detail of installation view)", 2019-2021, natural dyes and appliqué on cotton. Photo: Paul Eekhoff, ROM.



Surrey Art Gallery

Founded in 1975, Surrey Art Gallery presents contemporary art by local, national, and international artists, including digital and audio art. Recognized for its award-winning programs, the Gallery engages children through to adults in ongoing conversations that affect our lives and provides opportunities to interact with artists and the artistic process. The Gallery is located at 13750 88 Avenue in Surrey on the unceded territories of the Salish Peoples, including the q̓ic̓əy̓ (Katzie), q̓ʷɑ:n̓ƛ̓ən̓ (Kwantlen), and Semiahma (Semiahmoo) nations. Surrey Art Gallery gratefully acknowledges operating funding from the City of Surrey, Province of BC through BC Arts Council, Canada Council for the Arts, and the Surrey Art Gallery Association.

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City of Surrey Arts & Culture Activities

City of Surrey Arts & Culture Activities Surrey, BC

Enjoy a wide variety of Arts and Culture activities spread across the City of Surrey. Culture Days programming includes a range of free activities and events organized by the Surrey Civic Theatres, Surrey Art Gallery, Historic Stewart Farm,...