Sutapa Biswas: Lumen

  • Image: Sutapa Biswas, 'silver green against dark navy' photo by Steve Tanner
  • Image: Sutapa Biswas, Lumen, photo by Steve Tanner
  • Image: Sutapa Biswas,at The Exchange, photo by Steve Tanner
  • Image: Sutapa Biswas, Time Flies, photo by Steve Tanner
  • Image: Sutapa Biswas, stills from Lumen, at Newlyn Art Gallery, photo by Steve Tanner
  • Image: Sutapa Biswas, Lumen, 2021. Production still. Colour C-type print. Dimensions: 130 cm x 86.6 cm. Collection: Government Art Collection, UK

08 Oct 2022 — 07 Jan 2023

Newlyn Art Gallery & The Exchange

Showing across both The Exchange and Newlyn Art Gallery, a major solo exhibition reflecting the artist’s commitment to questions of identity, ideas of dislocation and belonging, and their vital contribution to the Black Arts Movement in Britain.

Since the early 1980s, Sutapa Biswas’ works have addressed questions of identity, and ideas of dislocation and belonging, through the display of drawing, photography, neon, and the moving image.

The upper gallery at Newlyn Art Gallery is dedicated to Biswas’ most recent filmwork. Lumen, 2021 is inspired by the artist’s journey by sea with her family from Mumbai to Dover, the semi-fictional narrative tells the stories of her mother and grandmother through a poetic and powerful monologue. The film evokes maritime histories of trade and transportation, with personal memories and stories of migration and displacement that unfold and overlap with colonial histories during the British Raj.

At The Exchange are presented a number of filmworks and a large series of delicate bird drawings, Time Flies, 2004–ongoing. Referencing taxidermy birds and colonial paintings in which birds were a familiar motif, the works consider loss, grief, and are a moving tribute to her late father, who Biswas describes as ‘birdlike’.

A projected film piece, Birdsong, 2004 (#5) was shaped by Biswas’s experience of motherhood, and inspired by the first sentence spoken by the artist’s then eighteen-month-old son when he asked his mother if a horse could live with them in their family home.

Another projection, Light rain, 2014–21 was shot in the Japanese city of Beppu, famous for its hot springs. The two-screen installation captures billowing clouds of steam rising out from between the buildings, creating a strange, almost otherworldly vista, permeated by the ambient sounds of traffic.

Listen to Sutapa Biswas talking about her work.

The exhibition includes a film that maps a semi-fictional narrative of migration, co-commissioned by Film and Video UmbrellaBristol Museum & Art GalleryKettle’s Yard, University of Cambridge, and BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art with Art Fund support through the Moving Image Fund for Museums. This programme is made possible thanks to Thomas Dane Gallery and a group of private galleries and individuals. The commission has been additionally supported by Autograph. Supported by Arts Council England.

This exhibition has been developed in partnership with Kettle’s Yard, University of Cambridge, and is accompanied by a new publication designed by Kajsa Ståhl of Åbäke and co-published with Kettle’s Yard. The publication is supported by the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art.

Exhibition and publication supported by Manchester School of Art at Manchester Metropolitan University.



Born in India and educated in the UK, Sutapa Biswas graduated with a BA in Fine Art with Art History from Leeds University in 1985. She has a postgraduate degree from the Slade School of Art and was a research student at the Royal College of Art. 

Biswas is an inter-disciplinary artist working across a range of media including painting, drawing, film, photography and installation. A conceptual artist, Biswas first came to prominence in the mid 1980s when she exhibited following graduation in the landmark exhibition ‘Thin Black Line’ curated by the artist Lubaina Himid (Turner Prize winner 2017). Biswas’ works are shaped by her observations about the relationships between people and the places they live in. She is especially interested in how larger historical narratives collide with personal narratives. Underpinned by an interest in colonial histories and how this relates to gender, race and class, her art is nuanced by the ways in which oral narratives reveal the human condition and their relationship to our collective histories and to questions of time and space.  

 Her artworks are represented in collections including: TATE; Arts Council England; Reed Gallery, USA; Graves Gallery, Sheffield Museums and Galleries, UK; Cartwright Hall, Bradford Museum and Art Gallery; Oldham Art Gallery; Rochdale Art Gallery; Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery, University of Leeds, UK.

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