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Chila Burman - Twenty Eight Positions in Thirty Four Years

Postcard relating to an individual
Published by: Phillip Green Educational Limited

image of Chila Burman - Twenty Eight Positions in Thirty Four Years

Giant, A4 sized educational reproduction of Chila Burman’s important mixed media work Twenty Eight Positions in Thirty Four Years (the title also appears on the reverse of the card). The work depicted Burman in a variety of guises, making Twenty Eight Positions in Thirty Four Years an expansive and particularly engaging interconnected series of self-portraits, rendered in bright and decorative patterns and colouring. The work challenged the viewer to consider Burman’s multiple, overlapping, and diverse identities or guises, many of which ran counter to dominant or societal perceptions of ‘the Asian woman’.

Burman’s mixed media work was large, though its nature - the different portraits of the artist, butted next to, above and below each other - meant that its size was variable, depending on where it was exhibited. It was executed in paint, oil pastel and photography, 1995. The work was acquired by Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. The card featured a lavish reproduction of the work on one side, and contextualising notes, for the use of teachers, on the reverse. The notes are intended to be used by teachers to introduce juvenile audiences to the work, and were arranged in four sections, The Artist; The Picture, Time for Talk, and Practical Starting Points. The artist section provides some biographical notes about Burman’s birth, upbringing, and early art school education.  The second section, The picture, discussed the work itself, and a range of meanings and readings with which it has come to be associated. Time for Talk encourages viewers to consider the ways in which the work has been constructed. And the final section suggests ways in which teachers might use the work as a starting point for pupils’ own drawings.

Extracts from each section, as follows:

The Artist: Chila Burman holds a unique position in this country as one (sic) the first British South Asian women to take a place at art school and to make art that dealt with issues if cultural identity.”

The Picture: “Among these portraits she has depicted herself as a pop icon, a ‘westernised punk’, as a traditional Asian woman and as Kali, the destroyer and protective mother goddess.”

Time for Talk - Looking at ideas: “In some of these images Chila Burman is more Western that Asian, in some she’s entirely Asian while in others she’s a mixture. Can your children indicate some of these and give reasons for their choices?”

Practical Starting Points - Gathering resources and making a self portrait: “Using the school camera, children can make portraits of themselves. Enlarge and photocopy in black and white. With felt pens, select shapes, patterns and colours to re-invent themselves.”

No date for the Teachers Notes is mentioned, though the reference: ART PACK W27/5 is given. The name David Petts appears at the foot of the notes.

Related people

»  Chila Kumari Singh Burman

Born, 1958 in Liverpool, England