RISE: Sandeep Johal and Sarah Khan
September 16 – November 26, 2023 

Shedding the weight of the recent past, Sandeep Johal and Sara Khan’s artistic collaboration gives rise to a playful and fantastical environment ruled by extraordinary creatures. The artists merge their distinct visual vocabulary of silhouettes, figures, geometric forms, floral patterns and rich colour palettes into new hybrid forms. Snakes, horned figures, animal-human hybrids and more inhabit this weird and whimsical exhibition. This cast of characters draws on the strength of women, both real and imagined. The artists use their illustrative styles to hint at stories that arise from finding beauty in the grotesque, uncovering resiliency within vulnerability and gaining power from hardship. Together, these explorations reflect the complexities of a feminine experience. 

For this exhibition the artists worked with fabric, painting, mural elements, found objects and ceramics to create sculptural as well as two-dimensional works, exploring some mediums for the first time. Their process of collaboration unfolded over a year and across distance, sometimes working together in person but often communicating through images and text while in different places and in different time zones. Akin to walking into a large-scale “exquisite corpse” game, in this exhibition each artist’s unique style builds onto, merges into and stands in harmonious contrast with the other. With their new body of work, Johal and Khan stitch together autobiographical elements with cultural history and merge fantasy with reality, creating luscious, detailed artworks ripe with symbolism.  

Images: Installation view of RISE: Sandeep Johal and Sarah Khan, exhibition at the Art Gallery at Evergreen, Evergreen Cultural Centre, 2023. Photo: Rachel Topham Photography.

About the Artists

Sandeep Johal’s art practice engages drawing, collage, textiles and large-scale murals. Through her Indo-folk feminine aesthetic, she confronts themes of bleakness, despair and ugliness with their dissonant opposites: brightness, hope and beauty. Johal’s work typically centres around the stories of women’s resistance and resilience. 

Sara Khan’s art practice focuses on watercolour painting and includes recent experimentation with textiles, installations and murals. She reflects on the significance of the seemingly mundane aspects of daily life through her meticulous watercolour paintings, which often feature fantastical, uncanny creatures and veiled autobiographical references. 

Both currently based in Vancouver, Johal was born in Kelowna to immigrant Punjabi parents and Khan was born in England and raised in Lahore, Pakistan, where her extended family resides. Both of their families’ histories of migration follow the 1947 Partition of India at the end of British rule.  The artists’ deep connection to each other stems, in part, from this shared, complex history. In fact, Johal and Khan’s friendship and resulting collaborative artworks are made possible by their meeting in Canada, far away from the imposed border and political history that would have kept them apart. Both artists speak from a wealth of lived experiences that converge and diverge, as two South Asian women artists who are mothers to young children. 

We would like to acknowledge the BC Arts Council with support from the Province of British Columbia.  

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