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Mithu Sen

Indian Contemporary Artist
Born 1971, Burdwan, West Bengal, India
Lives and works in New Delhi

Mithu Sen is a New Delhi based artist / poet studied painting at Santiniketan, VisvaBharati, India and Glasgow School of Art, UK.

Sen's practices tems from a conceptual and interactive drawing background that has extended into drawing, video,sculpture,installation, poetry, sound and performance. Her journey critic's subtle hierarchical codes and hegemony imposed in the society (sexual, political, regional, emotional or lingual).

Blending fact and fiction, self reflective, playful and bold- a macabre sense of humor punctuates her work with deeper psychoanalytic readings that tie into our subconscious thoughts.

Sen's intuitive,free-spirited practice invites viewers into her own personal psyche and streams of consciousness. Swinging between distance and intimacy, Mithu makes the private public by engaging the spectators into a game of active voyeurism.

A past poet in her mother tongue stopped publishing and writing poetry since 2005 and experimenting with Disappearing bodies of language morphed into unreadable through computer glitches and gibberish readings.To create an abstract body as a form of resistance that claimed repressed emotional voices and a potential moment of lingual anarchy, a language of the subconscious, a morphed body from a visual to a sonic form Mithu reclaims her identity as a poet. Her work engages with the idea of radical hospitality, exploring in the process the limitations of language and the possibility of dialogue outside it using gibberish.

Education

2001

PG Programme (Visiting) Glasgow School of Art, Glasgow, Scotland, UK

1997

MFA (Painting) Visva Bharati, Kala Bhavan, Santiniketan

1995

BFA (Painting) Visva Bharati, Kala Bhavan, Santiniketan

VIEW     Selected exhibitions     Text      Videos      Awards      Selected images      View all

LIFE AND WORK

MAPPING THE ARTIST

21

Gallery Show Solo

22

Countries exhibited in

0

Museum Show Solo

6

International / national residencies

18

Years in Practice

24

Auctions

12

Special Projects

2

Biennales

1

Museum/public collections

13

Museum Show Group

40

Publications

4

Awards

87

Gallery Show Group

UNDERSTANDING Mithu Sen

Sexual overtones in her work is meant to provoke and trap people

Mithu Sen’s works, flooded with erotic imagery, often overwhelm the viewer. Mithu is aware of the potential of these sexual elements, as they attract the audience, compel them to go beyond a cursory vision and engage in a personal interaction. She cleverly draws sexuality from miscellaneous objects – both living and lifeless. She has a distinctive sensitivity, a combination of a smart sense of political insight laced with witticism and sarcasm. Her works engaged with sexuality from an early stage of her career, becoming more pronounced since her “I Hate Pink” and “Unbelongings”.

Her series Black Candy, 2010, took a humorous analysis of masculinity, gender, desire, sexuality and psychic anxieties.

Mithu Sen, RIP Another Stomach Another time | 
There is No Hero No Victim | Beheaded after Prostrate Surgery (from left to right), 2010, mixed media drawings on custom made acid free handmade paper, 83 x 42 inches (each), BLACK CANDY (iforgotmypenisathome), Chemould Prescott Road, Mumbai

Actively engages with questions of feminism but refuses to be categorised as one

In all her works Mithu Sen is overtly involved with exploring the notions of body, sexuality and femininity. When confronted with the question of being a feminist, she refuses to be christened as one but celebrates her biological womanhood with all its grace, passion and challenges. To her, the chromosome based gender categorizations seem imprudent.  Still the persona she carries and the content of her work risks a strong feminist association.

Mithu Sen, Untitled drawing, 2006, mixed media on paper, 12 x 10"

Attempts to bring audience closer to art, make it more engaging and interactive

In 2007, Mithu Sen began an interesting interactive art project, Free Mithu, which continues till today. She invited letters of love from the general public in exchange of one of her art work. Within a few years she was sent personal diaries, sweaters, box of mangoes, artworks, an invite to share tea and lemon cake with someone, evening walk with another, and long distance telephone calls, along with heaps of creative letters. She gave all her writers an artwork along with a certificate of authenticity. The holders of the art work are free to utilize it as per their wish. This was a novel project to initiate a personal interaction between the artist and the generic public. Free Mithu project was taken up to make art available to the common public, who otherwise could not afford it. Mithu was revolting against the economic forces by replacing a money based interaction with a more personal interaction of gift giving. The artist claims what she received in exchange of her artworks was more than what she would gain from monetary benefits. Mithu has set up a website, through which she maintains a personal relationship with her aficionados.

In 2009, she displayed some of the gifts she received through her “Free Mithu” project, in an exhibition in Khoj, New Delhi. As per the wishes of her writers, the anonymity of the writers was maintained.

Mithu Sen, Free Mithu, 2009. Installation View, Khoj, New Delhi.

Mithu Sen has traversed from simple to complex mediums and materials in her works

Mithu Sen started as a watercolourist. She prefers labeling her works as ‘drawings’. Over the years the artist, moving away from her traditional forte, has incorporated new mediums and greater innovations in her works. Her art activity has extended to sculpting, collage, installations with sound, performance. Her paintings carry a marked minimalist quality. Mithu Sen has widely experimented with her mediums, from the living to the inanimate, from found objects to created pieces- all juxtaposed in her artworks. Shocking materials like body fluids, hair, feathers of dead birds are all exploited by the artist. In a 2006 untitled work, the artist used beaded crow feathers on her visual field.

Mithu Sen, Untitled, 2006, beaded crow wing on paper, 16 3/4 x 13”.

Works appear as self-portraits, enabling an investigation into her known and unknown selves

Mithu Sen’s works transmit extreme personal overtones with her memoires, experiences and knowledge. For her the individual self is intertwined with the social territory. The artist claims that when the viewer examines her self portrait, they are not investigating her private life, but are taking a journey of introspections, exploring their own lives, perspectives and engage in a dialogue with themselves. Her face is only the starting point, the trigger for self examination. Simultaneously it also becomes project for researching the influence of the society on the self.

In Dance After Depression, 2006, Mithu’s own face becomes the carrier for a pair of horns, donkey's ears, animal feet forming the hands and feet. Her body is draped in a saree that looks like tiger’s skin. The composite image is exciting in an attractive, erotic way, recalling a fantastical, primal being.

Mithu Sen, Dance After Depression, 2006, mixed media drawing collage on handmade paper, 85 3/8 x 42 7/8”.

Bibliography