Materials contain entire worlds, they hold stories, they have lineages. When we observe them, we witness their history. This show reflects on material memory. In the attempt to speak of my own caste history, I see myself returning to materials, as only they can express the enormity and scale of time. Tar is one such ancient material. It has been used in punishment, medicine, ceremony and masonry; tar roads a symbol of wealth and privilege, tar is a material of labour and the division of castes. This show features a suite of new experimental works, that have been created from transferring and “peeling” the surface of paintings onto hessian with tar, in a process similar to the “strappo” method of preserving frescoes. 

Kirtika Kain is a Delhi-born artist working on Dharug land. Combining elements of sculpture, experimental printmaking and painting, Kirtika’s practice draws from her Dalit lineage and investigates hybridity, ancestral memory and the complexities of race and caste in the diaspora. Her work is influenced by historical and family archives and her labour-intensive studio practice utilises materials of ritual, including pigments, waxes and golds, reclaiming their traditional religiosity. The quality of timeless silence and sacredness that these materials uphold are central in her work. Kirtika’s visual representations tell a story of personal and collective histories, reflecting on the fragmented inheritance of caste.  


Image: Kirtika Kain, Tar (work in progress, detail), 2024, image courtesy Roslyn Oxley 9 Gallery, Sydney and the artist © the artist. Photograph: Luis Power. 


Saturday 18 May - Sunday 18 August

Mosman Art Gallery