In her latest exhibition, Lumen, British Indian artist Sutapa Biswas employs a feminist, decolonial lens to disrupt temporal limitations. We take a closer look at the works – and the woman – in question
“I’m trying to saturate spaces with the possibility of imagination,” says British Indian artist Sutapa Biswas to Kabir Jhala, in an interview for The Art Newspaper in June of this year. And this, it seems, she is doing with aplomb. After more than three decades spent blending poetry and provocation across mediums like photography, painting and performance – all the while challenging discrimination in the arts and beyond – Biswas is reinstating her position as a prominent force of representation. This comes in the shape of Lumen, an overwhelmingly rich and involving exhibition that calls for the UK to confront its imperial legacy, with a focus on far-reaching, frequently dismissed repercussions still felt today.
As the artist’s first solo exhibition in 14 years, Lumen stands as a collective transmutation of the subject matter prevalent throughout her defiant career. It’s an amalgamation of references and ideas that’s somehow still open in its approach, willing the viewer to participate in the process – and the making of meaning. It is split across two key UK venues: the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead is currently playing host to a huge screen displaying Biswas’ Lumen film; and here in Cambridge, Kettle’s Yard will become home to a selection of the artist’s visually compelling works, providing pieces of a puzzle that the mesmerising art invites you to complete for yourself.
Strong feelings are evident, at times explicit
Nonetheless, Lumen doesn’t exactly let you off the hook. It draws you in, and the opportunity to immerse yourself is there if you wish to take it – but the narrative is in no way linear or straightforward. Much of the subject matter is challenging, tough, powerful and personal – strong feelings are evident, at times explicit. For the most part, the complexity allows for a gentler assimilation of political statements. The exhibition’s multi-layered nature can be interpreted as many voices, coming from different places. In essence, it’s challenging skewed perceptions of the present, from an angle both imaginative and liberating.
“I am fascinated by the mind of my son when he was a child, when he saw no division between the real and the imagined space in terms of what’s possible,” Biswas continues, in her interview with Jhala. “That sense of wonder is ultimately for you to reconsider the past, so that you can imagine a different future.”
Lumen will be showing at Kettle’s Yard from 16 October until 30 January 2022. For more information and to book tickets, visit the Kettle’s Yard website. kettlesyard.co.uk