About the Artist

Natasha Narain

As a Bengali Australian visual artist, born in India in 1970 into a Defence force family, Natasha considers herself a peripatetic traveller and speaks Hindi and Bengali. An alumnus of the prestigious Kala Bhawan or Institute of Art at Viswa Bharati University in India, she spent five formative years developing an interdisciplinary art practice free of nationalist sentiments but closely appreciative of indigenous and marginalised traditions alongside an extensive study of Western, Far Eastern and Indian Art. Natasha moved to Australia in 1993, initially living in Melbourne where she continued her interest in printmaking at the Australian Print Workshop in Fitzroy. She also conducted research into the archives of the State Library of Victoria on women in South Asian Art, followed by a public presentation. Embracing the language and culture of her new home, and her love of books, Natasha arrived at a crossroad when discovering a richly illustrated catalogue, the only one of its kind, published by the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 2010, on the Kantha, which formed a part of her maternal heritage. Deeply moved by the works, Natasha committed herself to continue this nearly lost tradition of self- reflexive, individual, hand embroidering that turned worn sarees or clothing to quilts considered sacred wraps and heirlooms for the family. For Natasha, Kantha is a starting point, but also a  point of departure as she extends the materials and methods into a large body of interrelated works, both object and process-based, to free the Kantha from its current reductive state as a pre-designed and decorative craft item.

Natasha regularly exhibits her work as a means to introduce Kantha into our cultural landscape and to engage with the local community, often through public workshops and talks. She has held numerous solo exhibitions,  participated in public art projects and enjoys testing the portability and place-making inherent in her practice by taking her works on long journeys such as driving to Dandenong near Melbourne, or visiting New Delhi and Simla in India and more recently, Philadelphia and Chicago, creating performative presentations where Kantha in turn, anchors her.  Natasha also creates spatial Kantha drawings on architectural glass and walls to practice mark-making as a form of automatic prayer inspired by the Kobhar or sacred rooms created by women in Bihar, using basic domestic materials. She sees these interventions as continuous 2D practice where Kantha becomes a filter to observe the present, such as local plants and a method of communicating with the audience by being present in the gallery space.

Natasha is currently pursuing a PhD in practice-led research at QUT in Brisbane, supported by the Australian Postgraduate Award. She is continuing to develop new strategies, materials and forms of engagement that speak from transnational and gender perspectives while creating a contemporary continuation of the Kantha. She is also passionate about restoring agency to past- practitioners by examining original works in the first hand so that select individual works can be critically examined for their version of history as well as their rich aesthetic contribution- not just an emotional connection to a distant past. Her research is accessible through QUT E prints. Concurrently, the need to settle and to be financially independent in Australia led Natasha to a parallel career in Banking, with the ANZ Bank in Melbourne followed by Commonwealth Bank in Brisbane. Natasha considers her role in both art and in banking, as a form of service and engagement with the community. She acknowledges this learning of business and life skills has assisted her in creating a sustainable practice while also reducing some of the isolation that artmaking induces.