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Creative Cross-Currents with India & Sri Lanka

26th March – 5th June 2022

Over the last few years Dimbola Museum and Galleries has been getting to know the work of artists Jeremy Bear, Sunara Begum and Dunstan Perera and has come to recognise that there are significant parallels between their lives and work and that of the pioneering 19th century photographer Julia Margaret Cameron. Cameron was born in Kolkata and, having spent her teenage years in Europe, returned to that Indian city to marry and bring up a large family. It was only when Cameron and her husband moved to the Isle of Wight that she took up photography and soon became a greatly admired and sought-after photographer.

Dimbola is now a thriving museum and cultural centre which preserves and presents Cameron’s work and stages a lively programme of art events and exhibitions.

Jeremy Bear is showing a series of paintings revealing the vibrant, urban life and creative spirit of the people observed by him on the streets of 21st century Kolkata, where Cameron lived as a child and young woman. Also showing is his recently completed film celebrating the annual Durga Puja festival and a 3D art installation he has designed and made especially for Dimbola.

Sunara Begum will show a series of etchings inspired by visits to Kolkata and her film entitled WATER, shot in India.  This is a meditative and atmospheric work in which she explores notions of identity and origin and draws upon Bengali creation myths.  In WATER the protagonist, Sunara herself, explores a subaquatic world with rhythmic sound and movement. She will give live performances based on the film in the exhibition galleries.

Dunstan Perera grew up in Sri Lanka and moved to London as a young man. There he pursued a long career as a stills photographer for films while also developing his own photographic techniques using natural mineral pigments. A work assignment took him back to Sri Lanka where he ‘walked in the footsteps’ of Julia Margaret Cameron. That journey inspired the series of photographically produced, natural pigment prints shown in this exhibition.

Fewer than 30 photographs remain from those taken by Julia Margaret Cameron during the years she spent in Sri Lanka. Digitised versions of 5 of these works in the collection of the National Museum of Science and Media in Bradford will be on view in the exhibition to demonstrate the synergy between her work and that of the three present-day artists

Griselda Bear is guest curator of the ‘Creative Cross-Currents with India and Sri Lanka’ exhibition at Dimbola and is also organising the associated programme of public talks and workshops.  She has held senior posts as Head of Visual Arts (Canada House Gallery, London), and Director of Development (Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Royal Academy of Arts and Sadler’s Wells) over several  decades.  She now works as a consultant or trustee for regional, national and international arts organisations.

Colin Ford CBE, previously first Keeper of Film and Photography at the National Portrait Gallery and Founder Director of the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television in Bradford (now the National Museum of Science and Media) and leading expert on Julia Margaret Cameron, has written introductory material for the exhibition and will speak at the Opening.

Jane Richter, expert Isle of Wight guide and seasoned Indian traveller and enthusiast, will give an illustrated talk entitled ‘A Traveller’s Tales of Kolkata’ relating her experiences on several recent visits to that city


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