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Distant Relations

By  Roy Mehta 1994 - 1996
Roy Mehta's intensely observed but quietly introspective images are also a meditation-but from a different vantage-point-on what Oladele Bamboye (who co-curated Mehta's 1996 show) calls "the anxiety involved in being Asian, British and yourself". 'Distant Relations' maps the fragile connections, not only within the extended family, but between two cultures. However, it does so not as a clash of incongruous entities, but in a subtler way 'different surfaces touch each other'. His work is best characterised in terms of what it resists. It refuses the elaborate gesture, the grand narrative, the labelling and the categorisation, the strong statement, the easy answers. Especially, it infuses the 'othering' of the Asian experience. Instead, it takes the unobtrusive, more personal path by focusing on small and intimate things. Mehta goes to the places where unexpected, and often uncomfortable feelings are likely to emerge. If this leads one to expect a quiet, unobtrusive body of work, it ill prepares us for the boldly pictorial quality and strong visual impact of his images. This refining down of attention and the altercations of focus are the key strategies that allow Mehta to defamiliarize and decontextualize his subjects, enabling us to see familiar things as if for the first time. Stuart Hall 'Different' © Phaidon Press Ltd. 2001
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A celebration of community on the streets of Harlesden, NW London c. 1989

Tahlia Leo-Kelly

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