Linda Jansma on the cartographer’s mistake: marigold map

Last October, I was put in touch with Dru Chillingworth, the Manager, Parks Maintenance Services for the City of Oshawa. I asked him if he could grow a map of marigolds for the RMG in the summer of 2016. He didn’t seem phased by the request, which left me hopeful! He and I, along with his colleague, Leo Stafford, the city’s Supervisor of Horticulture, met in December and walked around the Civic Centre, dreaming of spring. In May, Charlie Simms, another amazing employee of the city, began to plant the marigolds that he had started from seed in the previous months.

Now, each morning when I come into the RMG, I’m thrilled to see the colourful map, in orange and yellow marigolds, grace the main garden in the Civic Centre.


the cartographer’s mistake: marigold map, Sarindar Dhaliwal, marigolds, 2016

And the map? Well, it’s part of a larger exhibition of work by Toronto-based artist Sarindar Dhaliwal called The Radcliffe Line and Other Geographies that runs until August 21 at the RMG. The map shows the 1947 partition of India and Pakistan by a British bureaucrat named Cyril Radcliffe. Radcliffe wasn’t given the greatest tools for the task—inaccurate maps, contradictory instructions and a tight timeline of five weeks to complete the work of making two nations out of what had been British India since the mid 19th century. The result was disastrous: displacement and extreme violence that continues today. Dhaliwal’s exhibition touches on the broad implications of this division, as well as how it affected both her and her family.

Sarindar Dhaliwal recreates part of the sub-continent with marigolds, a healing plant that has been referred to as the Rose of India. They are meant to symbolize the mending of the scars of partition–nation states that are rethought with flowers rather than passports.


the cartographer’s mistake: marigold map, Sarindar Dhaliwal, marigolds, 2016

That the City of Oshawa supports initiatives such as these, speaks volumes to their commitment to arts and culture in its many forms. It’s all about engaging our publics, making us think about the world in a new way. Enjoy the flowers before the fall’s frost!


Linda Jansma

Senior Curator, RMG



Curator’s Choice – the green fairy storybook

Our Curator’s Choice comes from the upcoming exhibition ‘Sarindar Dhaliwal: The Radcliffe Line and Other Geographies.’ We asked Senior Curator Linda Jansma to pick a work in the show, and she selected the ‘green fairy storybook.’

Once upon a time there was a little girl who loved learning to read, sitting on the floor between the stacks in the public library…

– the green fairy storybook

The six-foot long table is scratched and dented, cup rings scattered around its top, as well of blobs of ink in the open drawer. The legs of the table are solid but each of the four end in delicate flourishes as they meet the floor. An exquisite array of coloured books are placed on this well-worn table (although, interestingly, this is a recently built table, made to Dhaliwal’s specifications by Phillip Murray). The books are bound with green leather plates with gold lettering. The narrative runs like the words on a page, from left to right requiring not just a shift of the viewer’s eye, but of her body, as well, in order to read the sentence that starts with “Once upon a time” and ends with “this work represents a resolution of sorts; a coming home to the place where all the narratives she has written began.” On moving around the back of the piece one sees the inside of each book—multi-hued paper that reflect the binding. The paper, purchased in Pondicherry, India, is handmade, its edges delicate and colour brilliant. The books are not uniform in size, and the interior of various books contains different hues of the same colour. Looking at the book from this angle, the coloured pages become animated, not unlike looking at musical notes on a staff.

In the narrative that runs along the binding, Dhaliwal mentions fairy books: the green, yellow, red, blue, and lavender of her childhood. The reference is both to Andrew Lang’s 1889-1910 anthology of fairy tales and to her childhood. A variety of cultures and countries are represented in the hundreds of tales that Lang collected in uniformly published books with varying coloured bindings. It is not difficult to imagine Dhaliwal engrossed in such stories as King Kojata, The Enchanted Snake and Prince Fickle and Fair Helena.

In the original The Green Fairy Book, the preface is titled “To The Friendly Reader.” Growing up in Southall, on the western edge of London in the mid-1950s, a young Sarindar Dhaliwal took stacks of these coloured fairy books home to read. Her memories of that time were of a disapproving mother caught between her native Indian and Western values. She felt that Dhaliwal read too much and that by doing so (ironically) would compromise her school studies. So this work, as much as it is about childhood memories of reading, is about a relationship between mother and daughter. While the girl grew in her love for stories and colour, her illiterate mother struggled with her identity. Dhaliwal recalls her saying “we don’t want to do this,” referring neither to herself or her daughter, but rather to the Sikh community.[1] Where do the in-between truly belong?

While the narrative and the illustrations found in Lang’s fairy books expanded Dhaliwal’s universe beyond western London and her Indian roots, colour has always fed her imagination. This seems appropriate when thinking about colour. As author Victoria Finlay notes: “colours… exist but only because our minds create them as an interpretation of vibrations that are happening around us.” [2] In her video piece olive, almond & mustard we see the grim reality of 1950s Southall, shot in black and white, a colourless, somber place. This makes the contrast with Dhaliwal’s work even more intense—the colour of her imagination more fully realized.

the green fairy storybook is about Sarindar Dhalwal’s desire to read and love of colour. It is also about relationships, the immigrant experience and the development of an artist.

– Linda Jansma, Senior Curator, The Robert McLaughlin Gallery

[1] Lecture by Sarindar Dhaliwal at the Chandigarh Lalit Kala Akademi Chandigarh, May 22, 2013., referrenced October 7, 2015.

[2] Victoria Finlay, Colour, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 2002, 4.


Sunny Summer Fridays at the RMG

School might be out and offices quiet with people on vacation, but the RMG will be busy on the first Friday of every month with our exciting line up of summer RMG Fridays!


To celebrate International Youth Week in May, we are kicking off the summer season on May 6 with Young Minds, featuring a variety of art from youth in Durham Region. The musical performances for the night include the harmonious sounds of 2 Cute 4 Country along with Sarling and the Fox serenading the gallery. We also have a unique and powerful slam poetry by Jaylen Stark.

For the visual art buffs, we have Lindsay Laukner Gundlack’s photo exhibition on display, titled Familiarity in the Foreign. Lindsay’s exhibit was RMG Exposed 2015’s winner! For the kids – or any crafty guests – Karen Burwell will be in the studio with her “Drawing stories to music” art project, a super fun way to get your creative juices flowing!


Lindsay Lauckner Gundlock, Coin Operated Binoculars, Digital C-Print, 2015


With Pride month kicking off at the beginning of June, what better way to celebrate Pride and the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgendered and Queer (LGBTQ) community than having our own Pride Show on June 3!

We’ve lined up some stellar performances by Adam McMastir and Kate Reid for your listening pleasure, and you can catch a sneak peek of Driftwood Theatre’s summer production. You will also get the chance to tour Liminal, on display in June. So bring your pride and embrace all parts of our community on a warm, sunny, summer night!


This month, we’re letting Canada take center stage on the first Friday (July 1 – Canada Day) so we’ll be revving up for RMG Fridays on the SECOND Friday, July 8! It might be Canada’s birthday, but we are putting our own twist on the usual red and white this month!

A Splash of Colour offers guests a colourful taste of summer with Sarindar Dhaliwal’s exhibition: The Radcliffe Line and Other Geographies, a vibrant and colourful showcase of art. Our entertainment for the night will be Laurent Bourque, followed by Dezz & Carol with their soulful melodies. Keep the colour flowing with us in the studio with our exciting art project!

the green fairy storybook detail

Sarindar Dhaliwal, the green fairy storybook (detail), 2009, bookwork, 50 x 187.5 x 87.5 cm. Collection of The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, purchased with the financial support of the Isabel McLaughlin Acquisition Fund and the Canada Council for the Arts Acquisition Assistance Program, 2016



With summer almost over, we are winding down this month on August 5th with some chilled out music and cool jams.

Guests will have the opportunity to tour The Singing Alarm: Inside Knob Hill, the exhibition of street artist, lyricist, poet, photographer and urban explorer Jerm iX. Enjoy the sweet vibes of Rory Taillon and Patrick Dorie, Durham Region musicians who will be turning the lights down low on summer.

abandoned building

jerm IX

Schedule in the RMG this summer on the first Friday of every month (second in July) and you’ll add the perfect amount of summer lovin’ to your plans.

Also, don’t forget to get your RMG stamp for half price cover at the Moustache Club for the official RMG Fridays after-party!