Mithu Sen

Paris

Mithu Sen: Untitled (2012): Mixed media on custom made, handmade acid free paper.plexiglass plate engraved; 104 x 75 cm (41 x 29.5 inches). Images courtesy Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris.Mithu Sen: Untitled (2012): Mixed media on custom made, handmade acid free paper.plexiglass plate engraved; 104 x 75 cm (41 x 29.5 inches). Images courtesy Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris.Mithu Sen: Untitled (2012): Mixed media on custom made, handmade acid free paper, plexiglass plate engraved; 104 x 75 cm (41 x 29.5 inches).Mithu Sen: Untitled (2012): Mixed media on custom made, handmade acid free paper, plexiglass plate engraved; 104 x 75 cm (41 x 29.5 inches).

By Noor Ale

Mithu Sen
Galerie Nathalia Obadia
Oct. 27 – Dec. 28, 2012

New Delhi-based artist Mithu Sen, who is a recipient of India’s prestigious Skoda Prize for contemporary art, has exhibited internationally in Berlin, New York, Mumbai and Singapore. When Sen was invited to participate in a three-week residency in Paris by gallerist Nathalie Obadia, the city became the focus of her critical commentary. The imaginative, improbable and inconceivable became a palpable experience in the resulting exhibition Devoid. The show unfolded as a visual diary, revealing an imaginative account of Sen’s encounters in Paris. Celebrated cultural icons are manipulated with the addition of macabre, ominous and irresistibly humorous twists, while seamlessly merging with a biographical layer.

An alluring and phantasmagorical veil is carefully cast over Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, the Little Prince and the Mona Lisa. In a series of mixed media works, these icons are no longer stoic; rather, they portray the carnal and savage impulses of the subconscious. Explicitly referencing phallic tropes, the Eiffel Tower is refashioned into an anatomical spectacle, Notre Dame becomes the erotic playground for menacing apparitions, and the Mona Lisa is turned into an immigrant. Although rendered in mixed media, the combination of drawings and watercolours on paper references the dual nature of icons as both real and unreal. Recognizable and irrefutable, the outlines imply that the icons are indexical to reality, but the layer of watercolour is akin to the texture of dreams.

Subtlety blurring the boundaries between reality and fantasy, Sen continues to explore the duplicity of existence outside the confines of her drawings. Grotesque and mischievous sculptures were suspended from the ceiling, casting a delicate shadow theatre above the drawings. They are the inhabitants of a realm that is both real and unreal. Familiar skull-headed creatures with jumbled body parts assert the possibility of existing by referencing our commonplace reality. We are only reassured of their imaginary presence by virtue of their inability to physically exist in our world.