Gurminder Sikand obituary

Other lives: Artist whose work was centred around images of strong women

My wife, Gurminder Sikand, who has died aged 61 of a cardiac arrest, was an artist whose work was characterised by images of strong women. This was true of her many self-portraits, her paintings influenced by Indian folk art, her watercolours of women hugging trees (inspired by the Chipko anti-deforestation movement), and latterly her drawings of muscular female figures whose physiques reflected Gurminder’s workouts at her city-centre gym in Nottingham.

Born in Jamshedpur in India to Sohindar (nee Ohson) and Sarmukh Sikand, Gurminder spent her childhood in the hill-station of Kasauli in Himachal Pradesh. By 1970 the family had relocated to the UK, where her parents worked for the NHS. Following spells in north Wales and northern England, they finally settled in the Rhondda valley in south Wales.

After attending Tonyrefail comprehensive school, Gurminder took a foundation course at Cardiff College of Art and Design in 1979-80 and then a fine art degree at the City of Birmingham Polytechnic (now Birmingham City University), where I was studying English.

In 1983, when Gurminder graduated, we moved to Nottingham. Supported by East Midlands Arts, and given opportunities by several individuals and institutions, she began to display her paintings and to hold educational events across the Midlands.

An early boost came in 1984 when the South African artist Gavin Jantjes selected one of Gurminder’s paintings, Festival of Fools, as the East Midlands Arts prize-winner. That year she co-founded the Nottingham Indian Artists’ Group with Said Adrus and Sardul Gill. Among the group’s many activities was an exhibition at the Commonwealth Institute in London in 1985, the year before we married.

Further recognition came when the art curator Eddie Chambers included Gurminder’s work in the catalogue for Black Art: Plotting the Course (1988), which featured her painting on its cover. Besides her involvement in many group shows, including in New York, Gurminder had solo exhibitions in a number of English cities, notably at Derby Museum and Art Gallery, Midlands Arts Centre in Birmingham and Walsall Art Museum and Gallery.

Gurminder exhibited sparingly after 2000, though her commitment to her practice remained absolute. The drawings in her final show, The Weaver of Songs, at the TG Gallery in Nottingham in 2021, each took three years to produce, their surfaces scratched away and pasted over in acts of erasure and remaking.

She is survived by me and our son, Nathaniel, her brother, Kulvindar, and her sister, Gurbir.

Tim Youngs

The GuardianTramp

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