The painter behind 'Badass Brides' just drew us a badass new logo
Nimisha Bhanot's spin on the CBC Arts gem celebrates South Asian Heritage Month
Because it's finally spring, or at least something close to it, our profile pic for May is bursting with flowers. But those blossoms, drawn by Nimisha Bhanot, are blooming with symbolism.
It's her tribute to South Asian Heritage Month — but for Bhanot, an Indo-Canadian painter from the GTA, culture informs her work every day of the year. As she puts it: "My work explores identity, sexuality and a resistance to the patriarchy through a critical female gaze which is neither North American or South Asian but rather in between. I think it's important for diasporic experiences to be documented through art, and its absence in the Canadian art scene is the driving force that keeps me going."
Just think of her paintings of Badass Brides and Bahus (daughters in law). Those popular series — pin-up portraits of real South Asian women breaking cultural taboos with a wink and a smile — earned her a bit of Instagram fame a few years back, and as she reveals in this Q&A, she plans to keep on painting the resistance. Bhanot spoke with CBC Arts by email.
Name: Nimisha Bhanot
Let's talk about your design. What inspired it?
For South Asian Heritage Month I really wanted to create something that brings us together. I've covered the gem pattern in patterns similar to mendhi designs since mendhi is a form of art that is widespread all over South Asia.
The flowers in the bottom left corner are the national flowers of countries that make up South Asia and the Canadian South Asian community. The arrangement of national flowers includes: Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago. Although Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago are not physically in South Asia when we look at the map, there is a big Indo-Caribbean community here and they are part of our diaspora so I believe they should be acknowledged when we discuss South Asian Heritage Month and the Canadian South Asian experience.
What's inspiring your work these days?
I'm inspired by my environment and the people around me lately. I find the diasporic experience to be very multi-faceted and complex and I don't believe I've seen it all. I've also been really into old Bollywood films lately — I find that their meaning has changed now that I'm older and I'm interested in exploring that deeper.
I have a new series of Badass Bahus coming up later this year.
For now I'm still working on a series of paintings about complexion which prioritizes dark skin South Asian women. These are the largest paintings I've ever done so they're taking a bit of time, but I'm very happy with how they're turning out!
What's the art project you're most proud of?
I'm proud of all my paintings, but the project I'm most proud of is a feminist art show I recently curated for the Zista Arts Society. The show took place on March 23-24 and was called Do You See What I See? and featured the work of 11 Canadian South Asian artists from various educational and technical backgrounds.
I've always wanted to create space for South Asian artists from all over South Asia, for political feminist art and for the South Asian LGBTQ+ community — so that we can exist together, be proud together and move forward together. It's made me rethink my role as an artist in relation to my community. It felt really good to uplift these artists and to show such powerful work together — I can't wait to do it again!
Who's the last artist you discovered online?
I love the recent works of Blake Neubert. He's an artist from Colorado and I discovered his work on Instagram. He does these paintings of everyday people or people in the news/media and then scrapes the freshly painted painting off to reveal a different image beneath. Sometimes the under-painting is horrific/grotesque, other times it's a social commentary which juxtaposes the image above it. It's so satisfying to watch him scrape the paint off; it becomes performance art.
What's your favourite place to see art?
What's one work of art you dream of owning?
Oh, I don't know if I can narrow it down to one! I recently saw Yayoi Kusama's Infinity Rooms at the AGO and fell in love with her pumpkin sculptures in the room "All The Eternal Love I Have For Pumpkins" (2016) — I would love to own one of those. I have always been a huge fan of Jean-Michel Basquiat and owning his 1982 piece "Obnoxious Liberals" would be WILD.
Any new projects on the go? Where can we see more of your work?
This questionnaire has been edited and condensed.
Every month, CBC Arts will feature a new take on our logo, created by a Canadian artist. Check out more Q&As with our past contributors.