Get to know SqW:Lab 2021 fellow – today we speak to artist Samanta Batra Mehta
Where can you be found?
Home. Even though I have studio, I work from home a lot. I’m around my kids which I love. In the old days I used to have a sort of traveling studio and would work wherever I could. As someone wise said, “wherever you go, there you are”. My mind is all over the place though.
Tell us about a creative action you have taken this week.
A creative action…of course art-making fits into this, but also making a lovely meal, experiencing the fecundity of summer, making plans, letting my mind wander a bit. The pandemic has caused both an intensity of engagement but also an intentional distancing from it. My creating has been more contained, purposeful. It takes a while for my plans to bear fruition though. The short answer is, I’m finishing up a commission this week. It’s comprised of 20 books on which I have drawn, collaged and cut.
What does ‘home’ mean to you?
This is a very, very complicated question for me. Is home a feeling or is home where you’re located? Like scores of people who have emigrated from somewhere, the idea of home is unresolved. I’m wondering about home as a physical space and also something we refine along the way. I’m still trying to work it out. Creating art for store windows in Bombay, in Colaba where I grew up, is a home-coming of sorts. What it evokes in me is something magical: the pregnant monsoon, wet earth, heavy salt air. The untamed grey sea. I can’t really contain my ideas.
What was the last thing you drew?
I drew an embryo in a womb, and from it grew this dense, tangled foliage. It is drawing about desire. The thing about desire is that it can be read in many ways. You could think of it in Freudian terms as a need from the body, this hunger. But desire is so much more, it is expansive. It is that which we want, but we cannot have, or which we think we cannot have. It is something forbidden. Hidden. Sometimes desire is something which we are conditioned to think we want (but we don’t really). Desire is both evoked and shaped by our culture and society and also constrained by it. Everybody has desires.
Tell us about 2 of your most subtle influences.
Being in the flow and seeing where the line will go, letting go of perfectionism in my work. There is so much more fun in being surprised and growing with it. Keeping my mind receptive and open to that early morning liminal, pre-conscious state- when many of my creative ideas emerge. Both are basic and subtle influences but have had considerable impact on my work.
Please share your thoughts / a few words about your expectations of the project.
There are many things that excite me about this project. The coming together with the curatorial team and artists during this really difficult time has felt tremendously special. I look forward to connecting and engaging with each ones creative process as the project unfolds. There is such joy at the thought of making artwork to be exhibited in store windows of my childhood neighborhood. The idea of home and nostalgia brings me back to those days of childhood wonderment, magic and play. Much has changed since I left Bombay but I want to re-engage with the community and open up a space for revitalization, enchantment and a sense of hope.