Full Artist's statement
MONICA JAHAN BOSE: ARTIST?S STATEMENT
My mixed-media paintings are symbolic narratives, embodying the fragmented nature of our contemporary world. I am an artist, lawyer, mother, and activist, rooted in the West and East, inhabiting many worlds. My work is often autobiographical, responding to the world I experience. In my paintings, I address my own multi-faceted identity as well as religious fundamentalism, gender politics, female sexuality, and climate change.
My paintings are playful and witty, striving to capture the thrill and joy I feel for this world. The sari blouse (or choli, a short top worn with a sari) is a recurring theme in my work, a stand-in for me, the female body, and women's place in the world.
My family emigrated from Bangladesh to the US when I was 10 years old, but I retain a deep connection to my ancestral homeland and language. Growing up in the West and in Asia, and coming from a family that is both Muslim and Hindu and split between Bangladesh and West Bengal in India, I have always been intrigued and pained by the borders between us, whether geographic, religious, or linguistic.
My work confronts the dualities and displacement experienced by an immigrant taken away from her roots. My paintings are about longing, memory, and searching for ?home.? My work is part autobiographical and part social and political commentary. I use Bengali text in my work as an expression of my attachment to my mother tongue and also as a political act, affirming the importance of multilingualism. Juxtaposing figures with symbolic and everyday objects from East and West, my current work is a series of fragmented and suspended narratives, linking yet dissolving cultural and personal histories. Often borrowing the direct and communicative language of Bengali folk-art and street art, my work charts out a personal language of painting. I also use photographs and collage in my work, highlighting the relationship between painting, photography, and memory. I often slice and cut my photographs and incorporate them directly into my paintings, as a reference to the fractures in my life. My work seeks to communicate and to stimulate dialogue.
Many of my works have the recurring themes of love, marriage, and the objectification and control of women. I use the matrimonial column (personal ads seeking marriage partners) from the Bengali newspapers to make collage hearts, circles, or apartment buildings, referencing the commodification of love, sex, marriage, and women. In my work, the sari blouse (small top garment worn with sari) has become a recurring motif and symbol of women and the female body. Women's garments have always been a subject of discussion and comment. What we reveal and what we cover up seems to concern everyone, especially those claiming to be religious. For those migrating from South Asia to the rest of the world, wearing the sari is an important symbolic link to our culture, and it falls on women to maintain this link. The sari blouse is usually partially hidden under the sari; uncovered in my work it can signify women?s sexuality.
Water and climate change also figure prominently in my work. I use the electric meter as a symbol for the excess energy use of the West, which may lead to negative environmental consequences in low-lying nations such as Bangladesh.
While it includes political overtones, my work is also playful and humorous and ultimately rejoices in the human experience. I drafted the following text for my recent show in Bangladesh, titled ?Drowning: Is There Time for Love??:
?We are drowning, saturated with images, news, information, marketing, phone calls, text messages, noise, and color. We are overwhelmed with the conflicting demands of work, society, family, religion, and tradition. We are literally drowning, as the waters rise around us and the storms grow fiercer with the warming of the planet, a consequence of over-consumption by richer countries. As we gasp for air and struggle to survive, do we find time for love? I believe we do. Love ? whether for our children, for our lovers, or for nature ? is what drives us, keeps us afloat.?