91: Mom Rage, Murals and Making Space for Yourself with South Asian Canadian Artist Sandeep Johal

Artist/Mother Podcast
Artist/Mother Podcast
91: Mom Rage, Murals and Making Space for Yourself with South Asian Canadian Artist Sandeep Johal
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In this episode I was honored to talk with the very talented and inspiring Sandeep Johal. Sandeep is a South Asian Canadian visual artist whose multi-disciplinary practice engages drawing, collage, textiles, and large-scale mural painting. Her Indo-folk-feminine aesthetic is characterized by her distinct pattern-work, bold use of colour, and ornamentation.

Growing up in a small town outside of Vancouver, Canada, with Indian parents, Sandeep talks about how she always felt different and even tried to hide her South Asian heritage as a child. It was not until adulthood that she claimed her heritage as something to be proud of – using textiles from her mother’s sarees and colorful animal images like tigers and monkeys. The large and imposing women in her works are goddess-like – all at once strong and also burdened. She and I talk about the importance of women taking up space for themselves and how it is essential to do this in order to have the energy to care for others.

Sandeep’s main source of income, she explains, are murals. On her honeymoon in Buenos Aires in 2012, she recalls seeing murals in a new way. The murals there are massive – often wrapping around entire buildings – and explore themes of social justice and politics – which she had never seen done in quite this way. Sandeep deeply connected with this, and began creating murals with her South Asian imagery – large black and white figures with traditional designs alongside bright and colorful animals. 

Towards the end of the interview we talk about Sandeep’s latest show, “Beast of Burden”, which dives into the dark side of motherhood. Anger, sadness, and emotional immaturity are emotions that we all feel as mothers, Sandeep explains, but no one wants to really talk about. “Mom rage”. Depression. Resentment. Exhaustion. All of these feelings are shouldered by the large imposing beast women she created for the show. They embrace a smaller and vibrant monkey, metaphorically embodying the presence of her son. Her mother’s suitcase sits in the middle of the room as her mothers’ textiles from India and Canada spill out. By bringing all these dark and hard feelings to light, Sandeep provides mothers a safe place to be – a place of belonging and an encouraging spot to land – taking up space as a woman in a world that doesn’t always encourage it.

Sandeep’s Final 5 Answers:

  1. Biggest Art Crush: Sara Khan
  2. Dream Trip: India
  3. Inspiring Book: “The Selector of Souls” – book by Shauna Singh Baldwin. Also loves Jhumpa Lahiri  
  4. Favorite Meal: Her mom’s aloo paratha with chai tea
  5. Shout out: her husband Chris and Pennylane Shen

To see more from Sandeep, check out her website and find and follow her on Instagram @sandeepjohalart.

The Artist/Mother podcast is created and hosted by Kaylan Buteyn. You can see more of Kaylan’s work on her website or connect with her on Instagram @kaylanbuteyn

Sandeep painting at Nelson International Mural Festival, 2020
Sandeep’s completed mural at ArtSmash, Vancouver, BC, 2018
Beast of Burden, Burrard Arts Foundation, 2021
Sandeep working in her 10 week residency at Burrard Arts Foundation, her son in the background
Beast of Burden, Burrard Arts Foundation, 2021
“Beast Woman”, ink on paper, 2019
Illustration by Sandeep for “Stories for South Asian Super Girls”
“Rest in Power”, acrylic on paper, 2017
Sandeep’s work at Earls Restaurant in Grandview Corners, Vancouver
Sandeep Johal, Altars, 2019, murals commissioned as part of the interpretive area for Moving Still: Performative Photography in India, exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery, 2019
Facade Festival, Video Still, Burrard Arts Foundation, 2019
“Aparina’s Despair”, acrylic painting, 2019

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