Rehal, Priya “Pree”, Juice box. 2020. Toronto.
For the AGO’s Artist Support Initiative series, I decided to submit these three artworks created during the pandemic. Each is a watercolour painting, and I curated them as my submission because of their common warm and fiery colour palette.
The painting of fruits is reminiscent of Victorian scientific classification of plants - an aesthetic I constantly feel drawn to. The Sticky Mangos juicebox is a parody of “Frooti” jukeboxes, a common mango juice drink sold in India, and in diasporic grocery stores. I wanted to play with the labelling, replacing the logo with my own creative brand, and the subheadings with my pronouns: “they/them”. Listed on the side of the juice box: defund the police, Black Lives Matter, protect trans kids, and support Black trans women--social justice issues that are important to me. The ‘ACAB’ piece speaks for itself--I do not care for the ‘nice’ relative or friend of yours that happens to be a cop. While the police prey on and recruit oppressed folks, the police system is a white supremacist institution that needs to be abolished.
Rehal, Priya “Pree”, Pigs. 2020. Toronto.
AGO: What was the inspiration for this artwork or series?
Rehal: These pieces are not part of a series, but are a part of the body of work I have been creating during the pandemic. The inspiration varies, but the goal is to be playful and improve my watercolour skills. The watercolours used are handmade lightfast paints by Beam Paints. Beam Paints is an Indigenous woman-owned business, run by Anong Miigwan Beams, a second-generation painter and paint producer who uses local Manitoulin honey to produce plastic-free paints and palettes. Her paints continue to inspire me, as they’re natural, plastic-free and have the fragrance of raw honey. It feels right to paint natural elements with them. These 3 artworks reflect my personality and passions as an artist and community activist. I brand my art under the name “Sticky Mangos”, inspired by my favourite fruit. Growing up with food insecurity, my parents bringing home mangos signified we were financially okay for that moment.
AGO: Tell us about a place or a space where you most love making your work?
Rehal: Before the pandemic, I loved working from Paperhouse Studio. It’s a community arts space that is primarily a papermaking studio, housed in Artscape Youngplace. With big bright windows, adorned with tools of the ‘art classroom’ of my dreams, and with the co-directors’ kindness and plants, Paperhouse is one of my favourite places to work on my art.
AGO: Are you in dialogue with any other artists or creative peers about your practice? If so, how does this dialogue feed your work?
Rehal: I am currently in a more consistent dialogue with fellow artist-researchers by way of the ‘Making with Place’ research project, an SSHRC funded community-based participatory research project. In our weekly meetings, we share suggestions, criticisms, and feedback on what we have been producing. These conversations tend to clarify what I can focus on or what direction to move in. Conversations with other artist peers can sometimes be more technical, as I try to advance skills that I think come from practice and feedback from trained eyes, like those of my creative peers that have a decade(s) more experience than me.
Rehal, Priya “Pree”, Fruit Salad. 2020. Toronto.
Priya “Pree” Rehal was raised in Tiohtiá:ke/Montreal and went to school in Tkaronto/Toronto. They are a child of immigrant settlers from Punjab. As an artist-educator, Pree's work centres the experiences of individuals who are BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Colour). They have an interdisciplinary arts practice under the name: StickyMangos and they co-founded the Non-Binary Colour Collective. Pree is currently working on two research projects, one about improving services for trans youth, and one about making [art] with the place. You can find their work on Instagram @stickymangos and read more about their work on prehal.com/blog.
Follow Priya @stickymangos