Categories: Cathy Breslaw, SD Press Club Award winner, THE BUZZ, Working in Isolation

THE BUZZ: Working in Isolation: Suman Kabira

Written by Cathy Breslaw

July 28, 2020

Most artists work in relative isolation.  Our collective art practices and the creative process demands it. It goes against the human urge to congregate and socialize.  Still, we persevere as the ‘call to create’ nudges us.  We then deliberately make space – intellectually, emotionally and physically for the act of creation. We move forward quietly, with intention and faith in the process. Never have artists been more aware of isolation than time now spent alone in this Corona Virus pandemic environment. It is not our choice, but as artists we are familiar and in some ways ahead of the game in our familiarity and relative comfort with loneliness of self -containment. This “Working In Isolation” series aims to highlight how artists are adapting and how their work has evolved as a result of the pandemic. Read more articles in this series HERE.

Artist Suman Kabira is from Kolkata (previously known as Calcutta) India 

He writes about his work: The things I paint, or draw, 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. Born in a semi-urban area, very close to village, I had the fortune of getting in close contact with the rural area and nature– both spatially and psycho-spatially. Then I moved to Kolkata for my art education and since then, I’ve been into the entrails of this megapolis. Such a geographical binary, and the tension within, have contributed largely to my painterly imagination. In more ways than one. For example, this has allowed me to perceive human bodies and nature in different settings, in different postures and hence, with different nuances. These figures recur in my works.. I keep them as they are, and at times I twist them, turn them and reduce them to the basic forms that defy the comfort of having them readily recognized as any familiar form. 
In fact, I love to revel in the dangerous beauty of nature and binaries: Dream and reality, matter and void, light and darkness. I call them dangerous because they have the ability to slip into each other’s space rendering the so-called borderline in between deeply inane and superfluous.

1) How has your work shifted during the pandemic? Has it been a change in the process of you creating art? The mediums you use? The themes or concepts you are thinking about? 

For my art practice, I find inspiration from my the current happenings, my surroundings, people, and society where I live. As this pandemic creates new suffering,  many new meanings for words like quarantine, lockdown, food rush, crisis, and social distancing come into my art practice which is mixed-up with my inner perspective. When it comes to the basic idea for working, it generally develops stage by stage.  New elements, subjects, perspectives and the current human condition boldly changed my general views and dimensions for rethinking and reconnecting to my new visuals, and new subjects.

2) What have you discovered about yourself as an artist during this pandemic? 

Honestly the pandemic has given me a chance to rethink my art practice, the subject I generally choose and also for the mediums and colors I use. The pandemic also shows me the other side of a dark situation. The social distancing,  the restriction on free movement and quarantine all actually gave me feedback to connect with my inner sounds and inner imageries that have been added to my practice during this phase. Also this pandemic has offered me a different psychological zone for discovering a new perspective. It has given me time for assessment my past works and to give ample time to think about projects on the current pandemic situation. In India during this lockdown period a few more correlated things happened. From weather causing cyclones, to different social and political issues. These incidents certainly add another perspective to my regular practice.

3) What have been your biggest challenges working in isolation? Surprises? 

 Yes there have been a few big challenges I have faced. First, it has influenced my energy when I meet common people, observing my surroundings or visiting other artists studios, gallery exhibitions etc. Also when talking to people of different classes of society, talking about their lives , journeys, struggles or success, these experiences have given me new ground to build subjects for working. No doubt this pandemic phase creates obstacles to do this. Also in isolation it has been very difficult to collect my art materials, canvases or other items I use for my work from art materials stores. I basically avoid online shopping for art materials. Also this isolation gives me the great challenge of rethinking and reconnecting to my source of subjects.

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