Sutapa Biswas

1962 | Santiniketan, India
Sutapa Biswas — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Portrait of Sutapa Biswas in Lumen, 2020-2021, production still © Sutapa Biswas / ADAGP, 2022

British-Indian conceptual artist.

Born in India, Sutapa Biswas lives and works in London, having moved to the city with her family when she was four years old. She was educated in England, graduating in 1985 with a Bachelor of Arts in Fine Art and Art History from the University of Leeds. Leeds was one of the few British universities to include art historical theory as well as art practice within their fine art degree, which afforded S. Biswas a grounding in academic study. Her tutor, the feminist art historian Griselda Pollock, said that she “challenged us to think about race and gender through challenging but always artistically stunning works in pastel, photography and performance”. Her BA was followed by postgraduate study at the Slade School of Fine Art from 1988 to 1990 and the Royal College of Art from 1996 to 1998.

S. Biswas works in a range of media including drawing, painting, film, video, photography, installation and performance. Her work first came to prominence in the mid-1980s when it was included in the landmark exhibition The Thin Black Line, at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London, curated by Lubaina Himid. Underpinned by her interest in colonial histories, her early work Housewives with Steak Knives (1985) is a satirical study in pastels and paint exploring issues of race, gender, class and subjectivity. The artist is also interested in themes of space and time in relation to cultural identity and desire. Her work Birdsong (2004), comprised of two films, examines memory and rites of passage through the eyes of a child, whose dream it is to have a horse living in his house. Inspired by oral and personal histories, S. Biswas is also interested in the ways in which historical narratives intersect with personal narratives. Flights of Passage (2015), a participatory sound installation and performance piece enacted at Tate Britain, explores questions of identity and migration through everyday clothing.

S. Biswas has exhibited extensively worldwide. Solo shows include The Photographers’ Gallery, London, the Douglas Cooley Gallery, Portland, USA, the Institute of Contemporary Art, Winnipeg, Canada, and a UK touring exhibition organised by InIVA (Institute of International Visual Arts). In 2021 two UK solo exhibitions at Kettle’s Yard, University of Cambridge and BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead aimed to demonstrate her contributions to the Black Art Movement in Britain and to shift our understanding of post-war British art. Her latest works, Light Rain (2015-2020) and Lumen (2020-2021), explore the intersections of race, identity, gender and colonial histories.

The artist has taught and lectured in Fine Art and Art History internationally for over thirty years. She was the recipient of the Yale Center for British Art Visiting Scholars Award 2019-2020 at Yale University, and has held the position of Reader in Fine Art at the Chelsea College of Art and Design and Manchester Metropolitan University.
S. Biswas’s artworks are represented in the following collections: Tate Collections; Arts Council England; Reed Gallery, USA; Sheffield Museums and Galleries, UK; Bradford Museum and Art Gallery; Oldham Art Gallery; Rochdale Art Gallery; Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery, University of Leeds, UK.

Una Richmond

A notice produced as part of the TEAM international academic network: Teaching, E-learning, Agency and Mentoring

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