What's Local Anymore?
Tania Sen was born and raised in Kolkata, India, and currently lives and works in New York and New Jersey. Contextualizing generic icons as a social narrative, capturing the dichotomy of human condition, are the building blocks of her paintings, etchings, silk screen prints neon and other installations. Adapted to a separate culture Sen strongly adheres to her roots as an Indian artist as opposed to a Diaspora artist
A graduate majored in Communication Arts and MBA, Sen's experience briefly consists of 20 some years in the advertising and design industry in New York City followed by professorship in the dept. of Advertising Design as well as Art Therapy practice with autistic children. Sen has extensive practice in traditional and experimental print making at the School of Visual Arts, NYC.
Review by Dr. Anindyo Roy:
Sen's works are an exploration of religious iconography, text, logos and signage, contemporary and historic social elements, visual impact of technological and communication advancement.
Writer, scholar Anindyo Roy, in his research, particularly in his book Civility and Empire (Routledge: NY, 2004), Roy has explored the projects of narrativity within modernism, particularly in writers such as Virginia and Leonard Woolf and E M Forster. Using Walter Benjamin's form of historiography, he traces the history of modernism that emphasizes the life of the "image" as it is mediated, narrated, and projected by multiple forms of reproduction.
On his encounter with Sen's work, Cyberspace and Voices Dr. Roy commented on the "tension between oppositions of that dialectic, dichotomies that have been central to the aesthetics of defamiliarization and signified in the tension-palpable in the four repeated images-- between iconic unity and digital fuzziness, between the uncontaminated original and its inevitable decay, between recognizability and facelessness, between personal and depersonalized identity through substitution, mediation and commoditization."
About the new series of Sen's works, Dr. Roy notices, "All of the images in this sequence dramatize the life of this iconic image in the age of "mechanical reproducibility," as theorized by Walter Benjamin."
"Solitude: The image of Mona Lisa is split sideways, and placed alongside are the familiar aspects of repose: an open book, and a teacup. Hands crossed in quiet reflection, the fragments of the original coexist with objects signifying memory and fantasy-the spider hovering around looking for a spot to start building its web."
Dr. Roy notices the "The Heraldic Mona Lisa" in Mostly Untitled. "Literally incarnated as the antlered goddess of ancient Europe-who was later demonized as the devil by the medieval Church-her head is half submerged in the collective consciousness, with ants circling it. The surface around is thick, gluey, that is slowly engulfing her: a divine figure in Greek mythology, associated with wilderness, sexuality and the life cycle, this image marks the end of that collective fantasy of renewal."
In Precious Possessions, Roy finds traces of the Original and the Reproduction. "This image," he says, "literally embodies Walter Benjamin's theory of "aura," where the original and the reproduction tussle over ascendancy in the age of democratized art. Stacked in a drawer, the original is cast in its miniaturized visual precision, standing out against the spectral image of the original that still occupies most of the space in the frame."
The Unmasking: named by Roy himself, Mona Lisa is depicted with the mask of Frieda Kahlo; as it were, "Kahlo's turbulent life has been anesthetized by being turned into a mask to be held by the same hands that were in quiet repose in the first image of the series. In this picture Mona Lisa also has become the bearer of her long history-as the original Lisa Gherandini, the wife of the Florentine aristocrat Francesco del Giocondo, whose portrait by Da Vinci was acquired by Francis I of France, and now displayed at the Louvre. The atmospheric illusionism of the original has been replaced by a wall-papered background, highlighting Mona Lisa's domestication as an object in a bourgeois drawing room setting."
The Keys to the Enigma: Also named by Roy, "literally materializes the enigma that is Mona Lisa by representing the multiple keys to her mystery, while still retaining part of the mask. The painting also shows the effects of unmasking as re-masking."
Faces mark milestones on the map of human history. Some are reminders of individual contributions, while others bring into perspective the time period to which they belong. Recalling Warhol, "My idea of a good picture is one that's in focus and of a famous person."! While telling my own story, I pick Mona Lisa as she is known to the audience. Objects of Everyday Use, Cyberspace, Solitude, How do I look, are experiences of the multitude served up with a portion of familiarity. While the deconstruction of Mona Lisa leads to an inevitable degree of democratization of the icon, it also allows the faceless audience and their personal encounters a platform to validate emotions generated in a world in a constant state of flux.
Historically, a movement is recognized by symptoms such as bloodshed and change. To detect a movement in a world in a state of flux is a challenge and a half. To detect a sign and pin your faith on it is tricky in a world wizened to the manipulation of media, jaded with the glossiness of consumerism and confused by the fuzzy demarcation of mainstream and alternative. Commoditization once fresh with Warhol's soup cans now look contrived with dotted tentacles adorning Louis Vitton showcases in most major malls. Dotted shoes and handbags inspired by works of Kusama would tantamount to taxidermy of art. "Art is local" were the fervent words of an artist at a coffee shop in Khan Market, Delhi, "I wish..." was all I thought as I recalled the dotted tentacles wrapping an entire showroom building on Fifth Avenue, NYC, far from its roots in Japan.
Patriotism too has undergone some metamorphosis in recent times. In the past, mostly experienced as a byproduct of war, today in a world of mixed allegiances and fuzzy boundaries, it is for the most part a washed out emotion. Reaching back into my roots far from the tidal wave of despondence I recall the tradition of immersion of clay deity in the river after being worshipped, enacting a process of relinquishing old habits and attachments with anticipation of a renewal.