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Artist Spotlight: Prina Shah

-By Caitlin Dominey

Prina Shah is a Visual Arts Graduate whose aptly titled work “I Wish I had Said” has recently exhibited at the Spectrum Art Gallery at Edith Cowan University. Prina’s work is an incredibly thought provoking look into the innermost regrets of the individuals who participated in her anonymous survey. When viewing her work brightly displayed quotations grab my attention, but what is read there, holds me still, as I am given this little glimpse into the mind of a stranger. Ultimately experiencing this work leads you to contemplate your own regrets, your own words left unsaid. It is a well-known adage that “the truth hurts”. But there is a definite freedom in the truth. The truth can be held back for many reasons, to protect, to avoid shame, out of pride. Witnessing the catharsis of emotion in this work, you can’t help but wonder about your own unspoken truths, and how free you might be if you spoke them. I have been fortunate enough to have to opportunity to ask Prina some questions about her work, and gain the following insight.I_Wish_I_Had_Said,_Prina_Shah_and_Mr_Digital_Ink__Viewer[1]

Why do you think it’s important to give people the opportunity to voice unsaid thoughts?

“From my time as a volunteer Telephone counsellor at The Samaritans I noticed that some of the callers had these thoughts repeating over and over. They found it cathartic to talk through. We were encouraged not to give advice, but to listen. This project doesn’t give any advice, it simply shares our experience of the human condition and hopefully shows that you are not alone. I have received all sorts of responses; some answers are long, some are short, some are poetic, some are loving, some are hilarious, some witty, some poetic, some are full of longing for what could have been and some are angry. The thread that links them all is the desire for the truth, love and the longing for human connection.”

What role do you think voyeurism plays in this exhibition?

“A big role, it is more a case of voyeurism and participation. This is socially engaged art, people read others’ or even their own responses, and have taken time to appreciate all the works in the exhibition. The dark room where all the responses are projected is a quiet, contemplative space; I have created a space where people can comfortably read peoples’ responses and personal thoughts. These are thoughts that we don’t often express as adults. My 7 year old niece came to see the exhibition. She didn’t understand why I had received so many responses. Her Dad explained to her that as we get holder we tend to hold things back and don’t say what is on our minds like she does at the age of 7. I have had many conversations and learned a lot as part of this project and one thing I have noticed is that everyone has a story and most people want to talk as a result of being a voyeur.

I would like to say a huge thank you to everyone that has contributed. I have received over 170 responses to date. Without these responses there would be no art work. This exhibition and project is about the respondents. It is also about how the viewer reacts and interacts with the works.”

How did you come to choose the colours in this work?

“I originally started with black and white. I learned that people walk past that and were not drawn to the responses. We are so used to the colourful stimuli of advertising so I tried using colour and that is what worked. People are drawn to the works then they engage with it in their own way. Everyone has a different reaction and connection to the works.”

How long have you been working on this project?

“Since late 2013. This project has taken time to gain momentum, responses and I have created a lot of work in it. I have a floor installation, a projection room, an ongoing response booth, I have worked with Mr Digital Ink to turn 4 of the responses into songs, and collaborated with him on creating prints. I am also keeping the online survey active for people to continue to respond to.

I_Wish_I_Had_Said,_Prina_Shah_and_Mr_Digital_Ink__Crowd[1]

As mentioned above, for this exhibition I collaborated with Mr Digital Ink whose “Shapes of Suburbia” prints have won awards. The “Shapes of Suburbia” series are manipulated photos of everyday life in and around Perth; a play area, a house, a road, a new suburb, a car park, a church and iconic images of suburbia that people relate to. Mr Digital Ink turns the mundane into a thing of beauty with these prints. His prints married with responses from the “I Wish I Had Said” project have created images which look like memories or thoughts. It has changed the context of the responses somewhat; this collaboration with Mr Digital Ink on the prints refers to the everyday, the behind closed doors aspect of our lives that we don’t necessarily show to others.

I see this project as evolving one and one which I can continually develop.”

What are some of the responses you’ve received for the final work?

“I am keeping the project alive for people to continue to respond to via the online survey. It has really gained public interest, which is why I have created an Instagram account @I_wish_i_had_said for this project. Some of the responses I have received are:

– I knew you were in love with Tess the whole time.

– You could be the one for me.

– DO A SKID

– Jenny is a pineapple of the highest order

– You were right – Dad was having an affair

There were also long responses which you can see on my instagram account @I_wish_i_had_said for this project.”

Do you have something you wish you had said? Why not become part of Prina’s work via her survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/3BRHDKV

Photo credit: Prina Shah

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