Kirtika Kain

Published in Art Collector | July 2019
Art Collector’s ‘What Next’ section is an info-style feature that introduces readers to emerging artists who are generating interest.

Why pay attention?
Delhi-born Kirtika Kain creates luscious, gritty silkscreen and embossed works based on centuries-old Indian texts on social and classist systems. She unbinds these themes alongside her own narrative: a female born into the Untouchables, India’s lowest caste, who migrated to Sydney with her working-class family to chase brighter futures. Last year, Kain sold all fourteen works at the National Art School Postgraduate Exhibition, including her majestic, tar-tinged Pitch, after the sizeable work caught the eye of Roslyn Oxley. The revered gallerist offered Kain, then a Masters student, a solo show after meeting her and becoming captivated by the origin story that drives her work.

What does the artist do?
Kain interlaces fine materials like gold, vermillion, Japanese rice paper and beeswax, with tar, shellac, scorched linoleum, and other raw and industrial items. These collide into alchemic vistas that foreground her dualistic experience as an Australian-based minority tied to subaltern legacies, who is pursuing an art career in one of the world’s most expensive cities. She says, “to be an artist is a luxury and privilege; it enables me to question bigger things.”

Kain, who also holds a psychology degree, is currently on consecutive residencies in Delhi and the prestigious British School at Rome—two capital cities with civilization power structures that intrigue the artist. Delhi is of particular poignancy: this is where her father, who recently passed away, spent his formative years working manual-labour jobs, before progressing his way up in the food industry to serve the likes of Nelson Mandela.

The artist says…
“My work is an unpackaging of the stigmas in my cells. It’s about pressing into these historical wounds and leaning into the fissures within myself, to understand how these impositions and codes are imprinted into my own DNA.”

See it at…
Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney, from 8 July until 3 August 2019.
Supported by Art Incubator.


Images top to bottom: Roma, 2019 natural pigment, oxidation, wax, etched copper 66 x 48 cm. | burnt blood, 2019 religious thread, wax 35 x 35 cm. Images courtesy the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery | Her, 2019 gold paint, human hair, charcoal, wax, hand made paper 169 x 226 cm.