Suman Kabiraj is a multidisciplinary artist based in India. Born in a small town named Suri near Shantiniketan, West Bengal, Suman has exhibited all over the world. most recently in the Art under lockdown exhibition by Counterweave Arts, Rome Italy curated by Felicity Griffin Clark. We caught up with him to chat about the pandemic, inspiration, and why visiting galleries is so cool
ArtsCulture: You’ve been part of two shows that respond to Covid-19. Has the pandemic influenced your work in any way, and how do you think it has impacted the international art world?
Suman Kabiraj: My art practices originate from my everyday engagement with reality. This is a reality which, for me, is made of mundane happenings and uncanny images which penetrate into each other regularly, often unexpectedly, leaving me bewildered, yet fertile, with images that keep appearing onto my works.
In the pandemic phase, I was introduced to so many new words and meanings of our ‘new normal’ lives: work from home, social distancing, quarantine, isolation, food rush, crisis, online meeting and online classes – all these become an absolute part of our daily journey. The consequence of this on the vision of art practice, choice of subjects, choice of mediums are automatically transformed into a different address of practicing art. This pandemic has impacted a lot. Physical art shows, gallery visit culture, international art Biennales, art events… all came were in a postponed phase. The international art market was naturally affected naturally from the world economy fall out.
ArtsCulture: You’ve exhibited all over the world – what is it that makes your creative vision so universally appealing?
Suman Kabiraj: My work is subversive and a comment on the human condition and social stories. Most of my subjects are familiar but recontextualized. This works in terms of their insight, interest, coherence, complexity. Probably it’s because contemporary frames of society and stories from the real ground do appeal.
ArtsCulture: What inspires you – is it a place, an idea or other artists? What themes do you explore? And how would you describe your art?
Suman Kabiraj: Through the medium of drawings, paintings, sculptural installations and video art, I try to use satire to enable comparison, understanding and insight and hold up the flaws in our institutions, time, our nations, our species and, indeed, ourselves. The works combine history, politics and current events.
ArtsCulture: Video art and making short experimental films was your first interest, now you are also an actor – what attracts you to acting as well as directing?
Suman Kabiraj: Yes, doing anything with moving images attracts me a lot. I remember I did my first art video when I was an MFA student in my art institute at Kolkata. Each and every media has its own characteristic nature, I try to make dialogue through art videos or experimental films, which I can’t fully express through drawings, paintings, or installations. Since acting is not my flexible field, and I want to act more times in future, if I find it something that makes me interested.
ArtsCulture: What’s the role of the artist in society?
Suman Kabiraj: Art influences society by changing opinions, instilling values and translating experiences across space and time. Research has shown art affects the fundamental sense of self.
Art in this sense is communication; it allows people from different cultures and different times to communicate with each other via images, sounds and stories. Art is often a vehicle for social change. It can give voice to the politically or socially disenfranchised. A song, film or novel can rouse emotions in those who encounter it, inspiring them to rally for change.
ArtsCulture: You travelled to London and Paris to study modern and classical art scenes through museums visits. What has the experience added to your work?
Suman Kabiraj: In museums and galleries I came to experience a vast European art world both in a contemporary, modern and classical context. Larger canvases, mastering signs of drawings and paint application, composition, techniques and most of all the artistic ambience gave me positive fuel to develop and rethinking my art practice.
ArtsCulture: You’ve won plenty of scholarships and awards – how has this helped your art?
Suman Kabiraj: Some scholarships that were great supporting my student days and art career during making times. Making art there are certain expenses, some grants scholarships gave me the chance to collect ample art materials and also visitorship awards gave me chances to visit foreign art galleries and museums and to interact with international art scenario.
ArtsCulture: Where can we find more about you and your work?
Suman Kabiraj: I think Google is certainly the best option for this.
ArtsCulture: Suman Kabiraj, thank you for your time!
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