Intimating her attraction to issues of femininity, interiority, and eroticism, Mithu Sen has drawn sexuality from living and inanimate objects with both sensitivity and political acumen during the first decade of her artistic career. Born in Bengal and educated at Santiniketan and the Glasgow School of Art, Sen has engaged drawing, sculpture, collage, and installation to flesh out thoughts interlaced with delicate, critical wit.
Following solo exhibitions "Can We Really Look Beyond the Map" (New Delhi, 2000) and "Unbelongings" (Glasgow, 2001), Sen's breakthrough statement, the exhibition "I Hate Pink," took place in Bombay in 2003. Critiquing the clichéd feminine and kitsch associations of the color with textured humor and subversion, Sen alternated drawings of mouths, fetuses, roses, and genitalia with everyday, found objects like hangers and chappals overlaid in bright pink silk. The eponymous work from that exhibition hung stuffed, beaded strands of silk from the ceiling, interweaving light and dark pinks with two individual tresses of black material.
As she has expanded her drawing practice into larger sculptural projects and installations, Sen has detailed trenchant social commentaries in her work. Twilight Zone, developed for a residency at Khoj in New Delhi in 2003, used floor to ceiling as a canvas to narrate in charcoal the sexual violence experienced by a rape victim. In no Star, no Land, no Word, no Commitment, executed in New York in 2004, the artist drew strands of artificial hair into abstracted shapes set along a gallery wall, transgressing the personal boundaries and expectations of cultural meaning implicit in using hair as a medium.
In Sen's "Drawing Room," held in 2006 concurrently at the British Council, New Delhi, and Gallery Chemould, Bombay, Sen presented 80 untitled, mixed media on paper works that expanded earlier themes of domesticity, interiority, femininity, and sexuality. The artist's stream of conscious association extended the traditional boundaries of figurative drawing, as spindly elongated tongues caught baited fish, bananas morphed into penises, and trees and roses bracketed rigid skeletal bones. With lines that spun beyond the edges of the paper and onto the wall, as well as a sensitive attention to the placement of works within the gallery, the room itself became part of Sen's work.
Integrating her drawings even further into a multi-dimensional sensory experience, Sen developed the site and time specific project "It's Good to Be Queen" during a two-month residency in New York in 2006. Allowing viewers to enter the space in which she was living and independently look at and touch recent mixed-media drawings, fabricated objects, and ready-made household items, the installation improvised a dialogue between host and guest contingent on this unusual, extreme hospitality.
Following a residency with UNESCO in Brazil in late 2006 in which she used a local icon to invent "Being Anastacia," Sen executed the installation Indubala and her Unbelongings for the exhibition "Making/Unmaking" in New Delhi in 2007. Pasting mixed-media collages onto photographs of herself from travels abroad, the artist imagined a multi-dimensional installation for Indubala; this fictive persona complicated conventional classifications of Sen's own identity with expressive humor and characteristic charm.
The fourth edition of the Colombo Biennale, Conceiving Space, co-founded by the British gallerist Annoushka Hempel in 2009, and curated by Alnoor Mitha, a Senior Research Fellow (Asian Cultures) at the Manchester Metropolitan University, perpetuates its status as an important venue for showcasing strong voices from the Global South. Whilst the...
The India Art Fair (IAF) is usually a maze. Even with a map in hand and a purpose in mind, one can easily get lost or distracted. Often one meanders while trying to locate that elusive booth, which only leads to happy and unexpected discoveries. You might suddenly be caught unaware by a gem, while sipping tea.
From being a forum that brings artists from all over the world to one that will focus on South Asia, India Art Fair (IAF) has changed its course over the nine editions since it debuted in 2008. The transformation was obvious when the four-day event opened on February 2 at NSIC grounds in Okhla.Dominated by artwork from India, followed by...
Visual artist and researcher Sonia Mehra Chawla's artistic practice traverses notions of selfhood, nature, ecology and sustainability. Currently a visiting artist and researcher at M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation India, Sonia's ongoing project Critical membrane is on show at Exhibit 320.This exhibition focuses on her artistic enquiry into the...