The first major retrospective of British artist, Zarina Bhimji at London’s Whitechapel Gallery will debut her new film, Yellow Patch (2011), a reflection upon Indian Ocean trade and migration.
The Uganda-born photographer/filmmaker has spent most of her life in Britain, having relocated in 1974, just after the Idi Amin Asian expulsion. Her work conveys loneliness represented by desolate landscapes and abandoned buildings. Though she does not include human figures, signs of life, depicted as remnants of a long-forgotten past, are disturbingly apparent.
As I am in the midst of teaching an American art history course, I can’t help but recall the paintings of Hudson River School master, Frederic Edwin Church whose paintings, staged in vast landscapes, evoke a similar sense of spirituality alongside loneliness and desolation. In particular, masterpieces such as The Vale of St. Thomas Jamaica (1867) and El Rio De Luz (1877) evoke sensations of anxious expectation in scenes representing either the aftermath of a horrific event or the calm before the storm.
The show spans 25 years of the Tuner-prize  nominee’s work including images of Mumbai harbour’s abandoned Haveli palaces and colonial offices accompanied by a soundtrack to set the mood.
In addition to Yellow Patch, visitors will be treated to Bhimji’s 2002 film, Out of Blue, a survey of the Ugandan landscape set to sounds of fire, birds and human voices.
Earlier works include black & white photographs juxtaposed with patches of colour, such as She Loved to Breathe- Pure Silence (1987), which addresses the situation of British immigration during the 1970s and photographs taken in the Indian art galleries of London’s V&A museum in 1989 reflecting a penchant for 19th century aesthetics. Light boxes and large format photographs are also on view.
Zarina Bhimji is at the Whitechapel Gallery, London until 9 March 2012, Admission is free.
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