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Les Femmes Folles
MAMTA CHITNIS SEN, ARTIST
Mamta Chitnis Sen shares with LFF about working as a journalist, her work focusing on the changing rural landscape of India, her exhibition currently on display at Kolkata’s Indian Council for Cultural Relations, feminism and more…
Where are you from? How did you get into creative work and what is your impetus for creating?
I am originally from Mumbai, India and have been a working journalist for most part of my life, writing and covering various political and social events across the country. Although I have been attracted to art since childhood it was only in 2011 that I got myself enrolled into Sir J J School of Art to understand the various nuances of painting and formally began unleashing my creativity on canvas. My works are mostly in oils and acrylics on canvas (using a palette knife) and revolve around documenting the lives of people based in rural India and their slow and disappearing identities. I have exhibited in various groups shows in India and recently in France as well.
My paintings are concentrated on the changing rural landscape in India. The works are inspired by women farmers from the region of Sawantwadi, a former princely state in Maharashtra, India—where my ancestral home is based. These paintings depict women farmers (of all ages and stages in life—single, married, ageing) attending to their daily chores in life in the fields– either alone or with companions, or in conversations with each other with the lush green fields forming the backdrop for their activity. The blank faces of these women in the paintings are a symbol of how women farmers in India are devoid of their own voice and identity and how they continue to remain merely a minority, neglected and ignored. The paintings highlight the plight of these women and their circumstances.I have been a journalist and the works are mostly based on my experience of having travelled to these regions and my observation of the same. I have worked with The Sunday Guardian, Mid Day, Society magazine, Sunday Observor and recently headed Dignity Dialogue, one of India’s foremost national magazines exclusively for the 50 plus age group as its Executive Editor. I am presently handling Media Advocacy for Child Rights and You (CRY)—an organization working for the protection of rights of underprivileged children.
Tell me about your current/upcoming show/exhibit/book/project and why it’s important to you. What do you hope people get out of your work?
My upcoming show is focused expanding the issue of marriage and the role of the woman in it. The works ‘Silent Brides’ are mostly concentrated on rural women specially from tribal communities in India where women irrespective of age has no say in the choice of her partner—the decision is merely taken as a means to survive just another day devoid of poverty.The first phase of my work is currently on display at Kolkata’s Indian Council for Cultural Relations. I hope to exhibit the entire show at the end of 2016.I believe people get the message that while on one hand women are fighting to empower themselves in all means possible, on the other hand there is a section of society which are struggling to reach this understanding. My paintings of women devoid of any facial features are juxtaposed with the landscapes they work in have been appreciated for their unique style by most and the feedback has been overwhelming. I am proud to say that a few of my works are now in private collections in countries such as South Africa, France and Morocco.
Does collaboration play a role in your work—whether with your community, artists or others? How so and how does this impact your work?
Yes to some extent my travels to see these communities has in fact impacted my work and in my own way I have attempted to highlight their plight which has been very well received in the media as well.
Mamta Chitnis Sen: Off To Work
Do you think your city is a good place for women in art/writing/etc? What do you think is the best thing about your city for artists, and how might it be improved?
Yes Mumbai is definitely the best place for women to feel motivated to take up art or writing. The city has been the breeding ground for many internationally celebrated artists since the early sixties and has the best of art galleries. The best thing about the city for artists is that it provides a bigger platform for artists irrespective whether they are beginners or established ones.
Mamta Chitnis Sen: Silent Bride
Artist Wanda Ewing, who curated and titled the original LFF exhibit, examined the perspective of femininity and race in her work, and spoke positively of feminism, saying “yes, it is still relevant” to have exhibits and forums for women in art; does feminism play a role in your work?
Yes it surely does. Feminism is a very important aspect of my work. My works are largely based on women farmers and how migration by their husbands/fathers has largely affected their social status and condition. This again due to my personal experience with them and having observed that although women can be landowners in absence of their male counterparts they are yet not been given the chances to make their own decisions in terms of the lands that they control.
Mamta Chitnis Sen: Fisherwoman
Ewing’s advice to aspiring artists was “you’ve got to develop the skill of when to listen and when not to;” and “Leave. Gain perspective.” What is your favorite advice you have received or given?
The favourite advice which I have received and in return give to others is, “Do not hesitate in believing in yourself and seek who you are. You may be surprised at what you are capable of!”
See more of Mamta’s work:
Les Femmes Folles is a volunteer organization founded in 2011 with the mission to support and promote women in all forms, styles and levels of art from around the world with the online journal, print annuals, exhibitions and events; originally inspired by artist Wanda Ewing and her curated exhibit by the name Les Femmes Folles (Wild Women). LFF was created and is curated by Sally Deskins. LFF Books is a micro-feminist press that publishes 1-2 books per year by the creators of Les Femmes Folles including the award-winning Intimates & Fools (Laura Madeline Wiseman, 2014) and The Hunger of the Cheeky Sisters: Ten Tales (Laura Madeline Wiseman/Lauren Rinaldi, 2015). Other titles include Les Femmes Folles: The Women 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014 available on blurb.com, including art, poetry and interview excerpts from women artists.