at home: Artists in Conversation | Sutapa Biswas

February 18, 2022

Sutapa Biswas, artist and filmmaker, in conversation with Lauren Elkin, writer

at home: Artists in Conversation

Join us for lively and inspiring conversations with some of today’s most notable artists. at home: Artists in Conversation brings together curators and artists to discuss various artistic practices and insights into their work.

About Sutapa Biswas

Born in Shantiniketan, West Bengal, India, in 1962, Biswas is a British Indian conceptual artist who works across painting, drawing, film, performance, and time-based media. She grew up in London and in 1985 received a BA in fine art with art history from the University of Leeds. Biswas earned her postgraduate degree from the Slade School of Fine Art, London, and was an MPhil research student at the Royal College of Art, London, between 1995 and 1998.  

Ever since her studies at the University of Leeds, Biswas has been a key player in decolonizing art history through her studio practice. She gained distinction when she exhibited in the landmark exhibition The Thin Black Line at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in 1985. Curated by Turner Prize–winning artist Lubaina Himid, the exhibition focused on a selection of work by young Black women artists of Afro-Caribbean and Asian parentage that challenged their collective invisibility in the art world. Biswas’s work draws inspiration from art history, literature, and poetry as well as ancient Hindu mythologies. Her art considers questions of gender, class, cultural, and ethnic identity, and she is particularly interested in how larger historical and personal narratives collide. Her many influences include Edward Hopper, George Stubbs, and Johannes Vermeer, as well as the films of Chantal Akerman, Satyajit Ray, and Agnès Varda, and the writings of Edward Lear and Marcel Proust. 

This discussion focuses on Biswas’s visually stunning new film, Lumen (2021), which can be viewed on the YCBA’s website from February 15 to 21, 2022. The film draws on her family’s departure from India in the mid-1960s and creates a poetic reflection on the experience of migration and the feelings of rupture, dislocation, longing, and belonging. The journey by sea from India to England with her mother and siblings was a formative experience for the four-year-old Biswas. The vivid images she has retained of that crossing—and her mother’s anxieties and fears for her children and their future—are revisited through the film’s powerful narrative. 

Biswas is exhibiting in two concurrent solo exhibitions, at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, UK, and at Kettle’s Yard, University of Cambridge, UK. She has participated in many exhibitions, including at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; the Havana Biennial; Iniva, UK; the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London; The Photographers’ Gallery, London; Tate Modern, London; and the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, to name a few. Her work is in collections throughout the world, including Cartwright Hall, Bradford Museums and Art Galleries, UK; the Government Art Collection, UK; Reed College, Portland, Oregon; and Tate, London. In 2019, Biswas was a visiting scholar at the Yale Center for British Art. She lives and works in London. 

This program is presented through the generosity of the Terry F. Green 1969 Fund for British Art and Culture.