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Paula Sengupta

Indian Contemporary Artist
Born 1967, Kolkata, India
Lives and works in Kolkata, India

Paula Sengupta has established herself as an artist, curator and a writer. She is also a trained traditional printmaker. She has worked on broadsheets, books, installations and community art projects. Trained at College of Art, New Delhi and at Kala Bhavana, Santiniketan, she has also achieved a doctorate in Indian printmaking from the Rabindra Bharati University, Kolkata and now works as an Assistant Professor in Printmaking at the same university.

Education

2000

Ph.D. Printmaking, Visva Bharati, Shantiniketan, West Bengal, India

1992

M.F.A Printmaking, Visva Bharati, Shantiniketan, West Bengal, India

1989

B.F.A Painting, College of Art, New Delhi

VIEW     Selected exhibitions     Text      Selected images      View all

LIFE AND WORK

UNDERSTANDING Paula Sengupta

She explores the domestic space

Sengupta's early works focused mainly on feminine issues. She usually deals in any subject with a characteristic compassion and has a special interest in the day to day concerns of urban women in India. This also makes her work very easily relatable. She also looks back into her own life at times to develop the narrative using her own experiences of being a part of bourgeois middle class and also the domestic challenges of being a woman in the said society. For instance in her well known work No.8, Shorts Baazar she utilizes the century old ancestral home of her in-laws. She does not only talk about the heritage associated with the building but about several generations of women who have spent their lives in the building. Through the use of such personal narrative, she also questions the patriarchal tendencies of the typical educated Bengali middle class. She complements her subjects with the choice of her materials. She depicts these slice of life scenes through the usage of domestic materials such as everyday objects, utensils, crochet etc. to show how even the educated women are restricted to traditional womanly tasks such as cooking, sewing and cleansing.

Paula Sengupta, A Table for Two (Hers), 2008, etching

War and History are recurrent themes in her works

As a politicially and socially aware artist, Sengupta is also deeply interested in the fragmented history of the subcontinent and its painful partition. Two of her major series, "Rivers of Blood" and its sequel "Lv, Pony" address the complex politics as well as conflicts that are common to India, Bangladesh and Pakistan and that bind and divide the three nations. She looks at the wars and the subsequent sufferings from different perspectives. She looks at those who fight and those who suffer silently at home while the others fight. Another collection of her is called "war memorabilia" which again combines her feminist concerns as well as the commentary on geopolitics. This series shows women left behind by their male partners, trying to keep themselves busy in productive works like sewing and knitting, apparently to help in war efforts but actually to maintain sanity in the face of disaster.

Paula Sengupta, From Lv, Pony ll, 2011, woodblock printing, serigraphy, hand embroidery & appliqué on found textiles

She works with various materials to produce mixed media works

Trained at College of Art, New Delhi and at Kala Bhavana, Santiniketan, she has also achieved a doctorate in Indian printmaking from the Rabindra Bharati University, Kolkata and now works as an Assistant Professor in Printmaking at the same university. She has worked on broadsheets, books, installations and community art projects. She regularly experiments with the types of materials too. The artist uses colonial muslins and jamdanis from Dhaka and takes inspiration from traditional forms such as nakshi kantha, a quilting technique prevalent in parts of Bangladesh. However, she also combines them with more formal techniques of embroidery and stiches. These works also feature snippets of texts and audio drawn from old archives. Lyrics of and Rabindranath song here and an old wartime photograph there adds to her unique but eclectic collections.

Paula Sengupta, Rivers of Blood - The Tobacco Trail I, 2010, woodblock printing, hand embroidery & appliqué on found table linen, and serigraphy on acrylic sheet

She articulates narratives of loss and struggle

Apart from her homeland of Bengal, she gets drawn to other stories of loss and struggle. One such work is the "Pema’s Story or The Flight of the Ducks". It is a very complex narrative that tells the story of sufferings of a Tibetan through various folk tales of the region. She draws parallel between the flight of a migratory duck and that of a Tibetan refugee. This exceptional work shows the whole story in eight panels designed as a wooden box with a traditional sliding lid with Tibetan signs showing teachings and stories of Buddha.

Paula Sengupta, Pema's Story or The Flight of the Ducks, 2013, etching & serigraphy on paper, serigraphy on acrylic sheet, and hand-cut wooden box

She is not only an artist but a writer and curator also

Sengupta has also built a career as an academic and a writer over the years. She has won many research grants and residencies and as mentioned earlier, teaches printmaking at the Rabindra Bharati University. She has also been a Guest Faculty at the National Institute of Fashion Technology, Kolkata. She has also been a part of several published books and photo collections over the years. She includes textual material to supplement the visual imagery of her works; the roots of which can be seen in her writing and printmaking background.

Paula Sengupta, RUN, RUN!!, 2007, etching, aquatint, & serigraph prints, framed with etched glass

Bibliography