Mithu Sen is a New Delhi based artist who is celebrated both in India and abroad for her fantastical and provocative multi-media works that earned her India's inaugural Skoda Prize in 2010. Sen is originally from West Bengal and studied at Santiniketan before continuing her art studies at the Glasgow School of Art. Sen's intuitive, free-spirited practice invites viewers into her own personal psyche and streams of consciousness, allowing them to discover new identities including their own.
Sen's practice stems from a strong drawing background that has extended into video, sculpture, installations, and sound works that further draw the viewer into her psyche. In addition to popular images that she turns into puns, many of the recurring motifs in her dreamlike works, such as teeth, birds, and spinal columns, have deeper psychoanalytic readings that tie into our subconscious thoughts about sexuality. Falling teeth, to Freud, brought thoughts about fears of castration, an idea that recurs from Mithu's teeth sculptures such as 'I Chew I Bite' to her 2010 exhibition at Chemould Prescott Road 'Black Candy (I forgot my penis at home)'. Sen's works, such as those in her ‘Unbelonging Series', which use her own hair, are very physical in nature, and sensually explore often hidden parts of human identity.
Sen does not constrain her images to frames or pedestals. In her inaugural solo exhibition 'Drawing Room’' at Gallery Chemould in 2006 which also exhibited in Delhi with Nature Morte and the British Council, she engulfed the viewer inside 'her space' by extending lines from frames onto walls, from walls onto pipes and other structural components of a room. In her second solo with Chemould Prescott Road in 2010, she introduced sound where one wouldn't necessarily expect when viewing large scale, phallic drawings. While her previous practice could be described as female centric, 'Black Candy (I forgot my penis at home)' extended to her male counterpart and allowed viewers to step into Sen's gaze of masculine identity.
Engaging with the viewer and engulfing them in a 'Mithu experience' is important to the artist and she attempts to extend connections outside of the art world. In 2007, disillusioned with how disconnected her market prices of her work were with the salaries of her friends and family in West Bengal, Sen began the 'Free Mithu' project, where she invited viewers to send her a letter of love which she would reward with a gift of a unique artwork, complete with a certificate of authenticity. These gifts were collected from a public exhibition at Khoj in New Delhi, but could not be opened in public and created a sense of priceless intimacy between the artist and the letter writer.
Sen has been invited for numerous international residencies and exhibitions, and as the artist travels, she attempts to draw in new publics to her work that often reflects how these new locations have affected her psyche. In an exhibition in 2008 in Japan titled 'Nothing Lost in Translation', Sen was inspired by the erotic fantasies in Manga (Japanese adult cartoons) and created large-scale drawings that were hung from the ceiling, immersing viewers within their scenes. Sen then invited viewers to pin words that were associated with Manga, and in the process helped connect them to a part of their culture, which they consider mere fantasy. By exploring the subconscious, Sen shows viewers that fantasy is indeed a strong part of our reality.
© Chemould Prescott Road