Jenna McDonald interviews Primary Resident Artist Nadim Chaudry about his practice and forthcoming commission for the National Trust.


Tell us a bit about yourself, your practice and the work that you do.

I am a Nottingham based artist, born and bred in the city. After completing my BA in History of Art at UCL, I then went onto complete another degree in textiles from Goldsmiths College. Due to my family’s history in the tailoring sphere, art and materiality are very important to my work. Mainly, I work with sculpture and installation and how we construct identities. In regards to myself, I have many hats to wear as a gay, Asian, British, Pakistani, Muslim and I believe that everyone puts a lot of thought into who they are.

I have become increasingly interested in religion and religious objects and the notion of what makes a particular thing or place sacred. On a recent trip to Pakistan, I admired many of the religious sites and the fabrics of South Asia. In particular, their decoration, really relates to my focus on embellishment so I like to try and incorporate similar patters and designs.

Are there specific techniques that you would say define your artistic practice?

Ultimately, this depends on the project that I am working on, but I do tend to use appliqué, where you layer fabrics on top of one another. With my family working in the tailoring industry, my shelves are full of old fabric scraps donated by my mum, and I like to use these pieces of coloured fabric as a painter would use their paint and palette. In addition, I have an interest in combining materials to see what can be created. For instance, I have used beautifully coloured fabrics and placed them alongside the varying textures sand, soil and hair. I believe this adds a kind of gritty quality to my work.

How do you use your studio here at Primary and what do you keep in the space?

Because I work predominantly in 3D, my works tend to be quite large and so I have to store them here in the studio with me. Thanks to the height of the room, I used some scaffolding from previous projects and built a mezzanine floor so that I could take advantage of the space. My studio acts as a display and a reminder of what I can do, so you can find very old pieces from my days at University to current pieces that I am working on. I think it is useful to have your work on show, for if other artists and curators come to visit, they can get a real sense of your artistic style.

You are currently making new work for an exhibition with the National Trust and Croome Court in Worcestershire. Can you tell us more about your project?

This exhibition will be opening in mid-March of this year and aims to reflect the changing history of the building. In the 20th century, it was consistently being reused, and so has a really interesting story. After being sold by the owners it became a boarding school for boys, before being used as the headquarters for the Hare Krishna Movement and then finally a nightclub until the National Trust took the building under its wing.

The creation process has been really diverse. I began with running workshops where I spoke with ex-residents of the boarding school, as well as with children in the care system. At the end of my time with them, I asked them to donate an object that represented the concept of ‘home’ to each; these objects will be feature in the exhibition.

It will be made up of two rooms, the first will contain a large cabinet which will house the objects donated by the people I met in the workshop phase. The cabinet is reminiscent of a sacred shrine, with a very intricate design. The second room is more of a contextualisation space, which will have a documentary playing to tell the story of the boy’s school. With a seated area for visitors, they can take the time to write a short note describing what they think ‘home’ means, to which they can throw these into a wishing well. The cabinet will reside at Croome Court for 18 months whilst the second room will stay on for longer in a semi-permanent sate. As of yet, we have no concrete plan for the notes placed in the wishing well, maybe something to think more on!

Do you have any other projects coming up in the future?

Yes, I am lucky to have a few things on the go right now. I have been invited to get involved with the Diaspora Pavilion in Venice, which is a platform organised by the International Curators Forum to showcase artists whose practices can expand, complicate and even destabilise diaspora as a term. At the moment I am waiting on some more details, but this will be happening in May of this year.

Also, I am in the process of creating a solo exhibition, which will be on display at the Craft Contemporary in Los Angeles in 2021. During my time as a gallery assistant at Nottingham Contemporary, I collaborated with Patssi Valdez on her installation, which made fashion items from paper; thanks to this experience, the opportunity of a solo exhibition has come to fruition.

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