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Mithu Sen’s ‘Dropping Gold…’ in Zurich
‘A new piece of art opens up new possibilities, new meanings, and a new realm. Nothing can be more interesting than becoming a part of it,’ mentions Mithu Sen, who is considered one of India’s finest and most dynamic contemporary artists. She is known to provoke the viewer to question our social values: to question what we do as human beings subtly employing humor to reveal all the social, emotional, political, and fundamental aspects of identity.

Multi-faceted Mithu Sen works in a wide range of media including drawing, collage, sculptural projects, and installation. Born in 1971 in West Bengal, the artist secured her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in painting from Kala Bhavan at Santiniketan, and later, did a postgraduate program at the Glasgow School of Art on the Charles Wallace India Trust Award.

Her solos ‘Can We Really Look Beyond the Map’ in New Delhi (2000) and ‘Unbelongings’ in Glasgow (2001), and ‘I Hate Pink’ among others are testimony to her keenness to experiment. The glimpses of her dynamic art practice were visible in her ‘Drawing Room’ (2006) held at the British Council, New Delhi, and Mumbai’s Gallery Chemould, where she presented 80 untitled, mixed media on paper works that served as an extension of earlier themes of interiority, domesticity, sexuality and femininity.

Integrating her drawings further into an amazing multi-dimensional sensory experience, the artist conceived the site and time specific project, entitled ‘It's Good to Be Queen’ in New York (2006). Following a UNESCO residency in Brazil (2006) in which she made use of a local icon for inventing ‘Being Anastacia’, she executed some interesting installations for the exhibit ‘Making/Unmaking’ in 2007. She was introduced to the Swiss art lovers with the highly publicized group show ‘Horn Please’ at Kunstmuseum Bern (2007-08).

The new series, entitled ‘Dropping Gold…’ being showcased in Zurich, is another milestone of her impressive career. Within the framework of Suzie Q Projects, Birgid Uccia and Bob van Orsouw unveil the artist’s latest set of works. The solo is in keeping with the spirit of an exhibition space specifically conceived and planned as an open and interactive platform for the presentation of trendsetting artists and art projects.

Bringing out the essence of her works, a curatorial note mentions: “In her drawings, collages, objects and video works, Mithu Sen studies the possibilities we have of self-perception and the influence of society on our identity and development. She is engaged in general questions of gender in postmodernism as well as with the subjective experience of femininity and sexuality in post-emancipation. Her works are often marked by an autobiographical aspect, which allows the way she copes with her role as a successful artist in an emerging nation to become a part of her projects.”

According to the artist, an apparent tinge of sarcasm in her work is meant to prompt the viewers to play with the ideas and meanings of 'self'. By engaging with the work, they are subconsciously applying ‘my caricatures to their own lives’, she elaborates: “We all run after getting an identity for ourselves and for others to not to be insecure about ourselves and others, so we make a society and identify ourselves in form of various professions. I choose one of them and pretend (to be) like that.

She adds, “When the self portrait blurs into their (viewers) eyes, they don’t necessarily dig into my personal lives but make a new journey relating their own life, perspectives, and they put their own portrait into that void and become that very subject into that whole event. It becomes their (auto)biography. I like to ridicule and then engage my viewer into it as they start a dialogue with themselves.”

Offering further insight in her art practice, the exhibition essay points to a compelling physicality manifest in her works, in which figures fuse with animals and plants to enigmatic hybrid creatures.“In a sensitive albeit humorous way, the artist links the almost kitschy femininity of rose-red flower arrangements with bones, teeth and anatomic details. By way of her sensitive linear configurations, even intertwined entrails are divested of repugnance and transform into ornamental structures on sheets of paper left largely blank,” the essay adds. “The masterful shift from precisely detailed color drawings to sketched-in outlines lends the artist’s works on paper an aura of immediacy.”