From Mumbai’s colours to Sydney’s shores: The multi-cultural canvases of Gauri Torgalkar

By Maria Irene
Gauri Torgalkar // Pic supplied

When you step into the world of Gauri Torgalkar, you’re greeted by a mesmerising blend of Indian and Australian influences—a symphony of vivid hues, intricate patterns, and familiar landmarks. With her art, Torgalkar offers an invitation to transcend borders and cultural barriers, inviting us to see the world through her unique lens. As her artworks get a spotlight at The Other Art Fair, Sydney, from 12-15 October 2023, this India-born artist is turning heads and challenging perceptions about what contemporary art can be.

Gauri Torgalkar has navigated several corners of the world, absorbing the aesthetics of Mumbai, the intellectual stimulation of Ohio, and now, the natural beauty of Sydney. All of these facets come alive in her works of art, exhibited this week at The Other Art Fair, held at The Cutaway Barangaroo in Sydney from 12-15 October 2023.

Growing up in Mumbai, India, Torgalkar was deeply rooted in the local culture, but her identity began to diversify as she moved first to the United States, and eventually to Australia. She describes the amalgamation of her Indian visual aesthetic with Australian subjects as a slow process but a rewarding one. One of her earlier series, Strange Familiar, captures this duality beautifully by portraying Indian rituals against the backdrop of the Australian landscape, effectively changing what’s strange or familiar based on the viewer’s own cultural lens.

Her stint in Ohio near New York contributed significantly to her artistic journey, exposing her to world-class art and laying a foundation for her future work. While Torgalkar acknowledges that her art would not have been the same without her American experience, it’s the Australian landscape that has captured her imagination since she moved there in 2012. It offers her a fresh canvas on which to project her Indian artistic sensibilities.

Gauri Torgalkar artwork // Pic supplied

It’s no wonder then that Torgalkar was beyond thrilled to be selected for The Other Art Fair—a platform that opens doors to a larger audience and invaluable feedback. She sees the fair as a golden opportunity to bring her unique aesthetic into the broader conversation around contemporary Australian art. The art that will be displayed is part of a series called Tracing Patterns & Chasing Silhouettes, which digs deep into the intricacies of identity and cultural adaptation.

Art, for Torgalkar, isn’t just about creating beautiful pieces; it’s also about posing questions. Her latest series aims to explore the morphing identities of immigrants in Australia, using the patterns of Indian fabrics and the silhouettes of Australian plant life to symbolise the blending of cultures. The idea that art can bridge cultural gaps isn’t just a lofty ideal for her, but a lived reality. Torgalkar’s artworks engage viewers from diverse backgrounds, often provoking them to reflect on their own cultural experiences and biases.

When discussing the process that brings her artistic visions to life, Torgalkar mentions an intricate routine that involves on-site drawing, studio sketches, and layering techniques that can take weeks or even months to complete. She leans into transparent colours and uses techniques that allow new layers to interact with the underlying ones, culminating in a textured, fabric-like surface. Sometimes, she includes South Asian motifs and gold foil to add an extra layer of cultural richness to her pieces.

Gauri Torgalkar // Pic supplied

What’s next for Torgalkar post-The Other Art Fair? She plans to journey to Ayers Rock to immerse herself in its exceptional landscape and to derive inspiration for her next series. For her, “colour is the real deal,” and there will be no shortage of it at her booth at the fair or in any of her future endeavours.

Gauri Torgalkar has created a niche that not only melds two cultural worlds but also opens a dialogue about multiculturalism in contemporary art. Through the language of her art, she eloquently shares the stories of communities, challenges cultural boundaries and adds a new shade to the rich tapestry of Australian art. With her work showcased at such a prominent platform as The Other Art Fair, she not only gains a wider audience but also strengthens her ongoing dialogue about identity, culture, and the universal power of art.

Her art is, in essence, a beautiful conversation between her roots and her adopted homeland, a conversation that is open for all to join. Whether you’re a casual observer, an art enthusiast or someone grappling with your own multicultural identity, Gauri Torgalkar’s work has something for you. As she continues to paint her multi-cultural canvases, she also paints a more inclusive and open-minded future for us all.

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