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Radical Housing and Socially-Engaged Art

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Susanta Mandal

First at Khoj
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For almost a decade (1993-2001), I had been experimenting with structural constructions in a combination of wood and canvas, used together to get a different form, and suitable to deliver my own language. The forms of these structures have been inspired by the ancient weaving looms. While weaving looms are used to produce fabric that in turn have woven or printed design patterns in a variety of colours, my ‘looms’ produced spun ‘yarns’ that drew from history, politics and human pain. I used to present my works in a place lit in a particular way. All of my works demanded light in a different way. It was not the gallery light that I used, I wanted a light that was a part of the very work itself.
Over a period of time, light became an integral part of my works. This use of light is not contingent on high-tech fixtures but draws on a more traditional engagement with the medium. In India, during the old, traditional days, stories have been performed using light and shadow.
Shadows play a very crucial role in my works; they are symbols of abstract fear- fear of life, fear of social change. I often use lights and movements of shadows which create numerous forms on the screen/walls thus describing feelings of individuals, yet are more universal in a narrative manner. They are featured continuously to project repetitiveness through which pain/ drowsiness/ monotony together dragged on.
Later on, I started using photographs, videos along with other moving objects through motors. I started working with motors to get ‘motions’-for which there are no substitutes. Specially-a physical movement whether it is human or mechanical- is important to me. I feel a hug, a touch or a shift; —– don’t have alternatives. One thing being articulated in my work is the amalgamation of two types of motions; virtual movement (through video) and physical movement (from mechanical devices).
About recent body of Work:
My recent body of works explores the play of structured, static forms with the ephemeral and fragile-in this case bubbles. These works incorporate another movement in the way of heaps of bubbles- moving bubbles, dying bubbles. This creates a fragile structure which lasts for a few seconds and bursts one by one. It’s a kind of performance on the structure of steel plates and rods; where super soft motion of bubbles breathe on solid steel. At a glance its fun – child like playfulness. The real bubbles, clouds – especially capturing them or holding them in a cage is physically impossible. The apparent playfulness in the structure –comes to an end with an undescribed pain.