Toba Khedoori

Toba Khedoori, Untitled, 2005 

Toba Khedoori, Untitled, 2005 

Toba Khedoori’s (b. 1964, Sydney, Australia) conceptually charged paintings on paper have a monumental scale that contradicts the reticent manner in which they are deployed. Taken from the urban environment, her subjects are typically isolated architectural structures or details. Always familiar to the viewer – windows, doors, stairways, paths, benches – they have been described as the building blocks of the social world.

Occupying only a fraction of the entire picture surface, the objects Khedoori depicts are entirely removed from any context and appear to float on a sea of paper. Despite taking their subjects from populated spaces, the paintings remain starkly devoid of human presence, yet retain a figurative quality through the implication of the onlooker within them. Filling our entire field of vision – it is not uncommon for Khedoori’s paintings to span 6 or 7 metres – the works envelop us and in consequence inhabit a disconcerting realm somewhere between painting and installation.

Khedoori begins by laying the paper on her studio floor and covering it in a translucent wax. Any incident that occurs when painting – smudges, mistakes, or dust and hair falling onto the paper – is allowed to remain imbedded within the picture, creating a remarkable surface texture. The process of making thus recorded contrasts with the timelessness of the painted subjects.

As with all her work, the subjects in Khedoori's paintings for International 06 became emblematic - but of exactly what we were never quite sure. Previously her palette has remained largely monotone, as if retaining an honesty to the act of painting. In newer works the subject has been depicted in naturalistic colour with an almost photographic realism.

The fire-place, a symbol of domestic ideal and tradition, is at first alluring in its warmth, colour and depth, its perspective giving an almost tangible presence. However, forced into and confronted by its environment - the scale is such that the painting surrounds us - we begin to ask uncomfortable questions of place presented to us, yet of which we are given only partial information. Where are we? why are we here? what, or who, lies beyond the pictures edge?

Khedoori's second painting for International 06, which, unusually, filled the entire picture surface, was more stifling still. The sinister, looming black wall contrasted dramatically with the radiant light shining through it. As with so much of the artists work, the distortions of scale had a dislocating, overpowering effect on the viewer. The questions posed by the fireplace were answered: we became imprisoned by the wall.

Toba Khedoori at Liverpool Biennial 2006

Untitled, 2005
Wax, Oil Paint on paper
Courtesy of David Zwirner 
Exhibited at Tate Liverpool

Untitled, 2006
Encaustic, wax, oil paint on paper
Courtesy of David Zwirner
Exhibited at Tate Liverpool


Supported by

Australian Government through the Australia council, its arts funding and advisory body