Art and Migration

Kirandeep Grewal has been a multi-disciplinary artist for over 25 years in several different countries around the world, and works on paper, canvas and silk.  Being a mother of three beautiful children, she has had moments when creating art wasn’t possible, but always made a point of carrying her visual diary with her.  Kiran’s work can be viewed at

In this piece, Kiran details her art journey across three continents up to the present where her experiences have led her to her most recent project in Canberra, Australia.  Her project – the Migrant Women’s Art Group – supports migrant women to tap into their own diverse creative skills to explore and share their own journeys of migration.  For more information on the Group and where you can get in touch, check out:

I travelled extensively throughout India – where I was born – during my childhood, alongside my parents. I was introduced to new languages and traditional costumes and visited fascinating historical buildings and museums. Growing up with that ancient landscape around me laid the foundation of my future artistic work. After getting married, I travelled the world with my husband, exploring the rich diversity of the world and meeting amazing people along the way. I sailed around the globe for a few years. The sea taught me how to be humble as we sailed through storms and witnessed beautiful natural phenomena that elicited tranquillity and awe.

Kiran’s “Migration” – Acrylics on canvas, 2017

After this, I spent three years in Ireland, including two years in Spiddal, a small village in the Gaelic-speaking region of Connemara. Here I came under the tutelage of Brother Ambrose Mahoney, a Franciscan Friar and accomplished artist.  For me, Brother Ambrose was someone no less than Cézanne.  I learned to feel the ancient landscape of Connemara and got immersed in its beauty. My approach towards art became meditative. So, in County Galway, I learnt to see the purity of colours. Even today, I still strongly believe that our eyes capture images in all their purity. My wax jacket was my best friend against the Atlantic winds as I painted landscapes, attempting to capture Connemara’s beauty.

Then I went off to Wales.  There, the autumn season fascinated me – the gradual shedding of the leaves reminded me of the fragility, romance and rejuvenation of the earth. I was fortunate to have been taught by, among many others, Julia Griffiths Jones at Cardiff Metropolitan University. I learned all the skills for creating work with textiles there. I became a busy artist in Cardiff, exhibiting in galleries and public venues. I was an active member of Cardiff and District Multicultural Arts Development (CAMAD) group and Permanent Waves Women’s Arts Association.

Silk scarf – hand-dyed by Kiran, 2019

This exposure to diverse cultures enriched my knowledge of art. I learned different techniques from the artists I met.

Migrating to Australia was a big but fascinating move. I came to Australia with my husband and a 14-month-old son. Before coming to Australia, we had been in India for a year.  My son had gotten used to his grandma fussing over him and showing him peacocks in her garden every morning as her ’Good morning’ and the moon as her ‘Good night’. Though he was only 14 months old, he missed his grandma when we came here. Seeing the moon and peacocks in Launceston made him sad and he would ask ‘Where is grandma?’  I started to write and illustrate little books for him.

Kiran’s “Gum tree series” – Silk dyes on silk, 2015

As we settled in, we started to go out for picnics, which gave me time for art. I met who would become my best friend one day at the library in Launceston. We invited each other for a cuppa and have never looked back. We painted and explored the Tamar River together, and our children joined us on our art tours. In Launceston, I was very attracted to one very special large gum tree and painted it in various seasons.  After nine years, it started dying. After I moved to Canberra at the end of those nine years, my tree died. 

I draw my inspiration for design from the Australian flora and fauna now. The vivid colours of our land make every work of art an experience of devotion and happiness.

Kiran’s “Under fire” – Acrylics on canvas, 2019

Over the last twenty years, I have become acutely aware of the issues of migrant families, especially women who often sacrifice their creativity as they struggle to settle into a new country with their families.  It is from this awareness that Migration evolved – a body of work on canvas that depicts what migration means for a mother in a family, including the changes and the emotions she goes through every day.

In 2020, with support from Gungahlin Arts, I was able to start my dream project – the Migrant Women’s Art Group. In this, migrant women from all over the world connect, create and share their art and cultures.  I hope to be able to continue it for many years to come.

© Kirandeep Grewal, 2019