Samanta Batra Mehta’s work have been included in private collections in the Americas, Asia and Europe. She did her Bachelor of Arts in Economics from St Xavier’s College, Mumbai and a Master of Science in Analysis, Design and Management of Information Systems from London School of Economics, London, UK. But it’s the various art classes and workshops including the year-long ‘Aesthetics of Indian Visual Art’ at the Bombay University, summer school in drawing and painting at the Central St. Martins, London and traditional Byzantine icon-making at the Prosopon School of Iconology, New York which took her fancy and shaped her destiny.
She shifted from Mumbai to New York some ten years ago. I have seen her works two years in a row at the India Art Fair, which were exhibited by the gallery Shrine Empire, New Delhi. (The techniques, stippling and mirrorwork effect in photography made me feel nostalgic about the times I enjoyed these styles during my art classes in school and college) Her mother being a graphic artist and father a master mariner have a collection of nautical art. She began doodling her influences from history, myth, the natural world, medieval illustration, religious iconography and mystical philosophies. Is also an avid collector of antiquarian and vintage books, maps and objects which are very often seen in conjunction with her drawings, photos and installations. At present Samanta’s days are beautifully spent between kids and art- the love of her life.
I was recommended to do the same on newspaper or magazines; after she heard about my yearning to get back to art. But it’s my fear of spoiling the amazing artpaper pads and charcoal pencils I have collected over the years, that I cannot begin do justice to my art background. So I interacted with her further to get more inspired by the artist.
What urges you to translate anything into art?
All of us have a primary need to express ourselves. My need for expression translates into a need to make art.
When did you start collecting artworks and what were they?
The first work I bought was a semi-abstract mixed media work of a Ganesha by an unknown artist from my first paycheck of my first job. I was twenty two years old then. I still remember the euphoria I felt while walking away with it; actually owning a work of art that I loved. It still hangs in my apartment in New York today.
Since then I have been fortunate to collect not just art but maps, etchings, engravings, objects, and of course a lots of books that I would never part with!
What mediums have you experimented with till now and what are you craving to work with lately?
I have worked with most traditional media. I used to love making my own paint by grinding pigments the traditional way, the way medieval manuscript illuminators did, but when I got pregnant I stopped working in egg tempera and stopped making my own gouache because inhaling pigments can be hazardous to the fetus. While color brings a whole new sensory experience to art, I find what now excites me is going back to the basics and working with plain graphite or ink and really teasing the properties of these simple media to create complex, dense drawings. It’s still work-in-progress. I would love to make video art some day.
Which are your current favourite artists or artworks?
There are so many and the list keeps growing. The paintings of Peter Doig always suck me in and at the same time evoke unease. The art of Louise Bourgeois, Ana Mendieta, Maya Lin, Joseph Cornell and Marina Abramovic have been influential in my own artistic journey. I’m drawn in by the brilliant mind of Agnes Denes, the minimalist paintings of Agnes Martin and the sensuousness of Chris Ofilli’s works. Among the Indian artists there are so many who’s works I admire, especially those of Nalini Malani and Nilima Sheikh. The raw architectural spaces of Geoffrey Bawa and the voluptuousness of Isabel Allende always invite inspiration. And how can I forget the drama of Alexander McQueen’s designs?
What is the global trend towards art at present?
I do see the re-emergence of drawing in contemporary art…or maybe it’s because I love drawing that I notice it more?
Where do you see your art being appreciated the most?
Fortunately, my work has been appreciated pretty much wherever I’ve shown it. It is very gratifying, especially since I’m largely a self taught artist. My background is in Economics and Information Systems and my early career was spent in banking, private equity and shipping!
Do you have any grand plans of influencing your audience in the near future?
I’m committed to my work, I hope to grow and test all boundaries!
Samanta Batra Mehta has been nominated for the Forbes India Art Awards in the ‘Solo Show of the year – Debut’ category. Images from her debut solo exhibition ‘The Other Side of Time’ can be viewed on this website.