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24 September 2014
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Chiba c/o Chiba Kumari Burman

Chila - art sensation.

Artist Chila Kumari Burman

Chila Kumari Burman is no ordinary artist. She's one of the few British Asian artists to exhibit world-wide. Now she's making waves in the international art world with her colourful images inspired by Bollywood and Surrealism.

Chila was born and grew up in the back streets of Bootle in Liverpool.

She was also named Kumari, which in Punjabi means 'princess', and her art has always had strong roots in Indian culture.

'Pyar' series by Chila

Stunning image by Chila Kumari Burman.

Most kids growing up in her neighbourhood would never have dreamed of being an artist, but Chila broke the mould.

She says that her art comes from somewhere inside her:

"I've got this urge to express myself through the visual medium… I just want to create, do things, whether its drawing and painting or collage with mixed media.

"I just have this need, this desire… to do it."

Much of her work is about challenging stereotypes because, she says, "People do have this typical stereotype of an Asian woman. People expect us to be doctors or accountants… not artists".

From ice cream to Bollywood...

Chila's dad was an ice cream van man so she's definitely not your average middle class artist with a bohemian upbringing.

Much of her art is inspired by images of ice cream, cornets, and lolly ices.

She blends influences from popular culture together in a fascinating fusion of memory and images from family photos to Bollywood stars and Hindu gods.

Cornets c/o Chila

Cornets - from ice cream van to gallery.

Chila studied at the famous Slade School of Art and her work is now in demand from major art collectors.

Even Sir Richard Branson is a fan!

One of Chila's main inspirations for her art has come from her family.

Her father Bachan Singh and mother Kamla Vati came from the Punjab.

Bachan was a tailor but when the family arrived on Merseyside from India in the 1950's, he couldn't find work and ended up buying an ice cream van.

It was the start of an extraordinary story…

The next big thing

Today Chila lives and works in London but she has a major exhibition opening at the Huyton Gallery in Knowsley in May 2008.

Her work often takes the form of montages with all sorts of bits in them from bindis to beads, as she explains:

Montage c/o Chila

The changing face of Chila - montage.

"I include things from my past like my cycling proficiency badge, or photos of the family or Bollywood stars like Shilpa Shetty - and then I photograph the montage and make it into a print…"

Some of her prints also feature adverts including her favourite ones - ice cream:

"I like to look at the way ice cream is sold, the commercialisation - it's sex and ice cream really… and I'm being a bit cheeky with the way I use that…"

Although she no longer lives in Liverpool, she remains a proud Scouser and never forgets her roots.

Memory lane

Inside Out took her for a walk down memory lane and back to Hertford Road, in Bootle where she used to live.

"In some ways it's like I've never been away. But it's changed a lot," she says looking at the demolition of the houses in the neighbourhood where she used to live.

Although Bootle is changing, life at another childhood haunt - Freshfields beach, hasn't changed very much and brings back a flood of memories.

Where to see Chila's work...

You can see Chila's art at the Huyton Gallery between May 26th - 17th August. The Huyton Gallery is located in Huyton Library in Huyton on Merseyside.

Its opening hours are Monday - Friday 9.15am - 7pm, Saturday 10am - 4pm and Sunday 12pm - 4pm.

Chila recalls, "I had a fantastic childhood. In some ways, it was tough at times, but I was on the beach every weekend…

"I wasn't allowed a book so I had plenty of time to sit there and think and look and absorb everything that was going on around me.

"I wish I'd had a camera back then... all the colour and the noise - and now after all these years, it's coming back out again in my art…"

A lot of Chila's art is about these memories and her Liverpool roots.

Now she's looking forward to international success and the kind of acclaim she could only dream about as a child.

Chila has come a long way since she grew up as the daughter of an ice cream man in Bootle... but home is where the art is.

last updated: 11/08/2008 at 12:04
created: 30/04/2008

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