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Chila Kumari Burman


Chila Kumari Burman explores femininity and Asian identity across a wide variety of mediums, from painting to collage to digital media. Her works often have an autobiographical basis; incorporating everyday objects, pop culture materials or relics from her past. These form montages meditating on British society, Bollywood culture, family history and the representation of women. Born in Liverpool in 1957 to a Hindu-Punjabi family, Burman studied at Southport College of Art and Leeds Polytechnic before earning a Master’s in Printmaking at the Slade School of Fine Art.


Auto-Portrait (1995–present) is a multi-media print work created over decades, presenting multiple images of the artist in different poses, with varying backgrounds and clothing, collaged to create a mosaic of one image. Burman stares confidently out of the picture with her hands framing her face, her open palms suggesting vulnerability or a soft girlishness. The work presents the multi-faceted nature of one’s individuality, suggesting the strength and depth of her sense of self that extends far beyond a one-dimensional stereotypical female image. It dually explores the fragmentation of oneself in this process of technological representation and the assumption of an empirical reality in a photographed image – when the overall work is a carefully created construct.

Self-Portrait (1979) is another of Burman’s work that reflects her interest in the female form, of its presentation, autonomy and sexuality. This work was created by using her naked body to print in paint on the paper. The bold immediacy of her body’s impression on the paper creates an intense presence controlled by the body itself. The abstract colouration of blue and white, mixed with the incomplete impression of the naked form, creates a potent and ambiguous undercurrent of sensuality.

Burman’s work is in public and private collections, among them the Tate, Arts Council, Birmingham City Museum and Art Gallery, Alfredo Lam Centre, Cuba, Victoria & Albert Museum and Wellcome Trust, London. She has exhibited internationally, in India, Pakistan, Syria, Thailand, Hong Kong, USA, Cuba, Ukraine and Sweden, and most recently in Absolute!, Grace Belgravia, London (2016) Black Art in Focus, Wolverhampton Art Gallery, Wolverhampton (2016), the Colombo Biennale, Sri Lanka (2016), The 1980s: Today’s Beginnings, Van Abbemuseum, Netherlands (2016), and since No Colour Bar in the 2017 exhibitions at Curwen New Academy Gallery, London, the Attenborough Arts Centre, Leicester, Artworks 1830 Gallery, Halifax, and most recently she installed her solo show at Beyond Pop, Wolverhampton Art Gallery (2017).

Chila Kumari Burman (b. 1957)

Auto- Portrait, 1995 to present

Burman works in printmaking, painting, installation and film, and was part of the Black British Art Movement of the 1980s. She draws on high art and popular culture in works which explore Asian feminisms and her personal family history, merging Bollywood bling with childhood memories.

Inkjet on canvas

On loan from the artist

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