Bhasha Chakrabarti

Bhasha Chakrabarti (b. 1991, Honolulu, HI) graduated with an MFA in Painting and Printmaking from the Yale School of Art in the Spring of 2022. The artist has exhibited in solo and group shows at Jeffery Deitch (New York & Los Angeles), Hales (New York), Experimenter (Kolkata),  M+B (Los Angeles), and the Museum of Art and Photography (Bangalore). Chakrabarti was a semi-finalist in the Smithsonian’s 2022 Outwin-Boochever Portrait Competition and was awarded a Beinecke Research Fellowship in 2021 and the Fountainhead Residency in 2020. Her works have been written about in The New York Times, Hyperallergic, Artsy, Juxtapoz, and Arte Fuse. Bhasha Chakrabarti currently lives and works in New Haven, CT.
January 9, 2023
Tell us about your practice.
My work engages with the way that cloth simultaneously covers and reveals. The physical proximity of cloth to the human body, both when being used and when being produced, gives it the unique ability to hold the complexity of subjectivities and labor. Thus, I use textiles in multiple and synchronous forms: as a support and a subject matter in painting, as a wrapping and a surrogate for skin, and as a material manifestation of and a metaphorical container for human entanglements throughout histories of oppression and liberation. The centering of cloth in my work is the centering of embodied touch, both violent and erotic; gesturing to the actuality of ruptures in society, as well as the possibilities of mending, patching, and being quilted together in radically new ways.
You describe your practice as a process of mending. Can you expand a little bit about that?
I refer to mending both literally and metaphorically in my work.  I see mending as a creative gesture that confronts fragility, precarity, and impermanence while embodying hope, continuity, and futurity. Unlike many other forms of repair, the slow, quiet, and often collective process of darning, piecing, and stitching used or damaged clothing is most often relegated to women and occurs in domestic spaces. This, along with leaning into the richness of non-Western textile traditions, becomes a unique way of resisting colonial and capitalist systems that deny the existence of black and brown bodies as sites of pleasure, knowledge, and value.
The material used in your works seems to have real intentionality to it – how do you consider what materials to use within a body of work?
Yes! I consider the materials I’m using to be an extension of the content of the work. I like to think about their historical and cultural significance, who made them and under what conditions, and the environmental and aesthetic impacts of their use. I feel that for every artwork, whether the artist has thought about it intentionally or not, its materiality is essential to the meaning, potential, and politics of the work. For example, I am very aware of the fact that even the most “academic” types of painting, most often, happen on cloth surfaces (canvas, linen, burlap, etc). Painters are regularly negotiating the weight, color, grain, and durability of their cloth supports. And yet, painters don’t consider themselves to be textile artists. There are histories and political implications surrounding this distancing from the materiality of cloth. When I make a painting I try to incorporate those histories and implications into the narrative of the work.
How do you approach the figures within your work? Perhaps, in the context of the materials you use and the history that they carry?
The body is implicitly present in cloth or the surfaces of my work and it is often explicitly present in the imagery of my paintings. I only paint people I am intimately familiar with; myself, friends, family, and lovers. I am particularly interested in intervening in Western histories of painting the nude body through a lens of idealization and objectification. Rather than responding to this devastating praxis by covering up or obscuring the nude, I lean into a performance of excess nudity and eroticism. This approach utilizes brown jouissance, defined by Amber Jamilla Musser as the knowledge-producing sensuality and sexuality which resides within the fleshiness of the brown, femme body and exceeds the constraints of objectification that are constantly placed upon it.
What has been inspiring you lately?
Being in India and reconnecting with a lot of friends of mine who are practitioners of classical dance and music, I’ve been thinking a lot about the notion of riyaz. Simply put riyaz can be translated to “practice” but it is actually a very nuanced concept of discipline, repetition, and rigor, which requires even the most accomplished artist to spend significant amounts of time every day practicing the most elementary aspects of their craft. In a way, it is opposite to Western notions of mastery or genius, which expect the artist to consistently be demonstrating uniqueness through difference or ability to excel. Instead, riyaz expresses that true artistry comes out of commitment and regularity. I’ve been thinking deeply about how to incorporate riyaz into my practice.
What’s next for you?
I have a large installation coming up in Bangladesh, for the Dhaka Art Summit. But after this long period of travel, installations, and exhibitions around the world, I’m most excited to be returning to the studio and immersing myself in quiet art-making again. I have a couple of bodies of work that I’m very eager to get started on, so that’s what’s next…studio time!!

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