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Alienation and liberation

30 December 2021

5 min. to read

Visitors to Inderjeet Sandhu’s exhibition at DDW21 met with an array of phalluses rendered in marble. Anyone familiar with Inderjeet's previous work, from his time at the Royal College of Art in London, would have been surprised.

Work from Inderjeet Sandhu's’s time at RCA included 'Curtains', a body of work that explored how common middle ground elements in architecture like windows and doors relate to the concept of borders and migration. Yet, if they talked to Inderjeet, they may have made a connection: The idea of displacement and balancing cultures is still very much part of his work.

Inbetween cultures

There is something very pop art and cartoonish in the style of Jeff Koons about Inderjeet’s new work, the themes of sexuality and the religious iconography reminiscent of the artists' Gilbert & George. "This work is a freedom for me", laughs Inderjeet. “The concept of this new work is based around the fact that my parents are Indian, and I grew up here in the Netherlands. I've always been in-between these two cultures where the rules and regulations and the norms and values of both cultures are often contradictory. What would be good in the Indian culture would be considered weird or a bit off-putting in the Dutch culture. As a young child, I was always feeling that I was in a weird place. I'm constantly ping-ponging between 2 cultures and what's good and what's bad. In the end, you have to make your own set of rules," he observes.

From Langedijk to London

With a Sikh mother and father from North Punjab, via Kenya Mombasa, Inderjeet grew up as a child in the small village of Langedijk before moving to Alkmaar, where the designer has returned to set up his studio, after his time in London. Have his parents seen Inderjeet’s recent work? “My father has seen little snippets of it. My mother hasn't seen it. They are quite open-minded people. They grew with us. They come from an arranged marriage, and they had to make it work in the Netherlands."

Uprooting the formal life

Another body of work, created at the RCA, entitled "Clothing", looked at how one action can cause a total shift in one’s previous existence, identity, place and function it fulfils. Inderjeet explains: “It’s like uprooting my formal life in this work because I took mass-produced clothing and made them artisanal pieces [these are] brittle, broken, and we question their function.” Therefore, this recent shift towards an expression of sexuality and liberation is not new to Inderjeet, a search for identity and place is a cornerstone to his practice.

Striving to offset expectation

What’s next for Inderjeet? “There is no going back. However, for my next project, it's not going to be about phalluses or penis or sex. The project will be around symbols related to pricing where something is very cheap or very expensive, and I'm going to set the pieces again in marble” Inderjeet states. Here, we see Inderjeet again striving to offset expectation based on identity and a sense of place in society, saying “I want to look at these viewpoints, these old ideas and try to create an open-mindedness for people to look at each other and not to have a very rigid view of who they might be."

Inderjeet uses his background and alienation to speak to us all, and it is this struggle that marks him out as a designer that uses his artistic expression to communicate about the human condition.