Where history has often marginalised the female voice, Lumen reinstates it, not just as a mainstay of family and home but as an avatar of social conscience. Autograph presents the London premiere of Sutapa Biswas’ acclaimed film in a new solo exhibition.
Born in India and educated in the UK, Biswas’ art is underpinned by an interest in colonial histories and how this relates to gender, race and class. Her newly-commissioned film begins with the story of a baby emerging from a womb and ends on a note of departure, with its female protagonist about to embark on a journey across uncharted waters. Inspired by the artist’s journey by ship with her family from Mumbai to Dover in the 1960s, Lumen gives voice to her mother and grandmother through a poetic and powerful monologue spoken by the actress Natasha Patel.
Stories of migration and displacement unfold and overlap while memories, images and sounds ebb and flow. These are a lament for the sights and sounds of India Biswas and her family had to leave behind on their protracted sea voyage to England. The film is also an angry reproach of centuries of colonial rule, and its implacable incursions on domestic life. Shot in locations across the west coast of India and at the Red Lodge Museum in Bristol, Lumen incorporates historic footage filmed during the late period of the British Raj in India, alongside imagery dating from the 1700s when the British East India Company was established. Mixing archive material and new footage, Biswas lends this personal narrative a compelling universal resonance.
Lumen sheds unflinching light on the ripple effects of a complex and turbulent past. Imaginatively illuminating the long shadows of the past, Biswas suggests the potential to make a better, shared future.
is an interdisciplinary artist working across a range of media including painting, drawing, film, photography and installation. Born in India and educated in the UK, Biswas graduated with a BA in Fine Art with Art History from Leeds University in 1985. She has a postgraduate degree from the Slade School of Art, London, and was a research student at the Royal College of Art, London.
Biswas first came to prominence in the mid-1980s when, following graduation, her work was exhibited in the landmark exhibition Thin Black Line curated by the artist Lubaina Himid (Turner Prize winner 2017). A conceptual artist, Biswas’s works are shaped by her observations about the relationships between people and the places in which they live. She is especially fascinated in how larger historical narratives collide with personal narratives. Visually striking, as the author and art critic Laura Cumming writes “Biswas has a poet’s gift for…contemplative echoes and metaphors”, her works through its layered juxtapositions tell unsettling truths. Underpinned by an interest in colonial histories and how they relate to gender, race and class, her art is nuanced by the ways in which oral narratives reveal the human condition and its relationship to our collective histories and to questions of time and space.
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Free exhibition, 4 March - 4 June 2022
In her deeply emotive and powerful new series Fireflies, Indian artist and activist Poulomi Basu reflects on experiences of trauma – particularly patriarchal violence – navigating the claustrophobia of home, dreams of freedom, defiance, and transcendence.
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Lumen (2021), by Sutapa Biswas is co-commissioned by Film and Video Umbrella, Bristol Museum & Art Gallery, Kettle’s Yard, University of Cambridge and BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art with Art Fund support through the Moving Image Fund for Museums. The commission has been additionally supported by Autograph.
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