"It always feels like the image happened to Lee Miller, as if she caught it through her body. That's what talks to me when I look at her photographs. I'm really drawn to the way Lee Miller takes images of places, looking through to them, not conquering them with her gaze."
- Radhika Khimji, October 2022
Radhika Khimji, Lee Miller: Portraits in Space is curated by Coralie Malissard, bringing together two female artists' responses to time spent travelling through barren landscapes.
This is the first time that Radhika Khimji (born 1979), one of the few artists to represent Oman in its inaugural pavilion at the Venice Biennale this year, is exhibited in conversation with an avant-garde photographer. Her works on plywood belong to a new body of work and Sapling is delighted to be exhibiting never before seen archival material from the artist's London studio. Lee Miller (1907-77) is one of the most fascinating figures of 20th Century photography yet, aside from the iconic Portrait of Space (1936), the works she made in the late 1930s have had little exposure, perhaps because they mark a transition between her celebrated Surrealist phase in Paris and her later work as a courageous war photographer. This particularly intimate body of work however proved pivotal in her development as an artist.
While seventy years separate Lee Miller and Radhika Khimji's births, and while each artist has their own distinctive artistic language, a closer look reveals interesting echoes between both their practices. The desert, its mountains, forsaken ruins and construction sites hold an important place in their artistic imaginations. They both turn to the camera to capture the drama and harsh shadows in the desert they encountered. For Radhika, the camera is a point of departure. Both share an interest in framing or bracketing the vastness of the scenery in front of them so that their work often acts as portals, or windows into something else that the viewer is then drawn into. Their work plays with thresholds and oscillates between interior and exterior, embodiment and displacement, seeing and being seen and between the notion of place and the feeling of being out of place. Both Khimji and Miller's landscapes are corporeal, even sensual, as they explore the body's relationship to landscape. This makes for two very enigmatic bodies of work that require the viewer to slow down and get up close.