A house of small things with very big rewards

Story by Jack Foley

'PHOTOGRAPHY, painting and installation will combine to evoke memories of life in a Brixton house', according to the promotional materials for a new exhibition of work by Sri Lankan born artist, Roma Tearne, which can be viewed at the 198 Gallery in Herne Hill from September 13 to October 19.

Tearne frequently uses painting, photography, installation and daylight to produce her work and regularly likes to explore the themes of history, memory and a meeting of cultures.

Her exhibition, entitled The House of Small Things, will feature her large-scale photographs (see examples on this page) of interiors with minimal items of furniture that possess something strange about them. As viewers look closely, they will realise the proportions don't add up.

The photographs are blown-up images of a doll’s house that she played with as a child, in a house in Brixton.


Tearne arrived in Britain in 1964, by boat from Sri Lanka, on a journey that took 21 days. Commenting on the journey, she said: “Crossing oceans, we travelled 7,000 miles, chased by monsoons and battered by rough seas. It was a journey I would never forget.

"Its impact on my life was far reaching, but it would be three decades before its full significance would dawn on me.”

The disparate objects placed in the rooms — a piece of English furniture here, a Sri Lankan doll figure or a pile of textiles there — are the sole inhabitants of the miniature spaces.

According to the publicity materials, 'an oblique sense of melancholy reflects the sense of alienation that she felt as a newcomer in a strange country'.

'Delicate paintings of near-empty rooms with peeling wallpaper add force to this impression'.

The exhibition also features an installation that stimulates different senses, as well as a series of glowing images that combine photography, painting and daylight.

The gallery is open from 11am to 5.30pm, Monday to Friday, and from noon to 4pm on Saturday. The 198 Gallery boasts a unique history, initially established in 1988 after the Brixton riots to provide exhibition space for black and other minority group artists.

It now supports emerging contemporary artists from diverse cultural backgrounds working with a variety of media and issues within a multicultural context.

The House of Small Things, Until October 19, 198 Gallery, 198 Railton Road, Herne Hill, London, SE24 0LU.

RELATED LINKS:
Click here for the 198 Gallery website...
Click here for more details on Roma Tearne...