This Burning Land Belongs to You - Exhibition Review

by Judith Gayle

As I walked through the doors of the dimly lit exhibition at Swiss Cottage Gallery, I was engulfed by a sudden feeling of euphoria as my eyes feasted on the showcase of paintings, print making and photography by artists Rithika Merchant (1986), Soghra Khurasani (1983) and Ronny Sen (1986).  

I was first drawn to a vibrant enormous painting by Soghra Khurasan (1983), an artist from India. The title of this painting was And this burning land belongs to you.  A striking hue of glorious red, yellow and orange dominated this barren landscape depicting burning volcanic larva - a devastation of places and lands. I could hear the echo of my screaming thoughts like a vibrating drum - What has happened to this land and how had it become so desolate?  I felt Soghra’s work would help to illuminate the meaning behind these artists expressions.

The overall theme of the exhibition This Burning Land Belongs to You highlighted the ultimate effects that conflicts have had on the historical, cultural and social degradation of communities and lands as well as the wellbeing of the people and animals.  The artist Ronny Sen (1986) portrayed Jharia End of Time in a series of overpowering photographs evoked strong feelings of compassion within me. Looking at these ravished landscapes, a hidden sense of lost beauty could almost be seen in the environment amidst all the chaos captured by the artist. Beauty seemed to have faded into the distant past leaving fragments of memories.  Surveying the blank and disillusioned expressions on people’s faces as they tried to salvage aspects of what was left of their lives.  This left me with an overwhelming desire to look to someone higher for some answers.  

Rithika Merchant (1986), cleverly describes the story and plight of individuals affected by displacement and migration in a series of landscape paintings.   Her choice of cool colours and images only served to enlighten the awareness of the trauma that may be associated with modes of displacement for those seeking refuge in distant lands; leaving unanswered questions to be explored by visitors to the exhibition.

I would encourage all those interested in expressive art as well as historical, environmental, community, social and political issues; to come along and experience this rich repertoire of works by reflective and talented artists.

Judith Gayle is an artist, poet and Camden resident. She has exhibited her work in the Open Open, a yearly exhibition which invites artists, professional and other, from all ages and backgrounds to display their work in a 'salon' style exhibition at Swiss Cottage Library, Camden. Hear Judith talk about her work in this series of short videos. 

‘This Burning Land Belongs to You’ runs until 6th November at Swiss Cottage Gallery (inside Swiss Cottage Library)

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