Suchitra Mattai: Sweet Asylum

K Contemporary

April 7 - 30, 2018

  • Opening Reception: Saturday, April 7 from 6-9 pm
  • Panel Discussion: Saturday, April 21 from 2-4 pm
Mattai InnerLight
Suchitra Mattai - "Inner light", graphite, appliques, and patterned duct tape on wood panel, 18 x 18 in

K Contemporary
1412 Wazee St
Denver, CO 80202



Just as people invariably transform the environments they occupy, so are we all profoundly and indelibly shaped by the natural landscapes we inhabit. Few artists are more uniquely qualified to follow the threads that bind self and soil together than Suchitra Mattai, and in “Sweet Asylum,” opening on Apr. 7 at K Contemporary, Mattai will weave a powerful self-portrait of relationships at once intimate and infinite.

“This exhibition explores land as a catalyst for the exploration of identity, and how natural environments shape personal narratives and ancestral histories,” says Mattai, a multi-disciplinary Denver artist with a growing international reputation. “The last three generations of my family have lived on three separate continents. As a result, I connect to all of these diverse places, and in some way my landscapes provide a space for them all to coexist. The places I create are born from memory, history and imagination.”

Mattai’s gifted imagination draws upon a wealth of both memory and history to create compelling works that delight the eye and challenge the intellect. Having personally inhabited landscapes from Guyana to Nova Scotia, from New York to Udaipur, India, and from Minneapolis to the Rocky Mountains, she brings to “Sweet Asylum” a nomad’s perspective on the nature of home.

“Place is central to identity, and when you travel as much as I have your place-identity becomes muddled,” Mattai explains. “I use fragments of many places to construct a sense of self-identity through images.” In doing so, she also addresses the far broader question of how the earth beneath our feet informs us as individual parts of larger societies. “For ‘Sweet Asylum’ one of the themes I‘m exploring is the idea of erasure in the process of migrations.”

The geneses, practices and residues of Colonialism are frequently woven into Mattai’s visual narratives. Those themes are nowhere more beautifully examined than through her intriguing treatment of vintage needlepoint tapestries.

“My grandmother was a seamstress, and I cultivated a love of textiles and fiber art at an early age. Part of my interest is looking to the past, and to me these crafts reflect women in the domestic sphere being creative when they could. They give voice to the women who originally made them, and at the same time demonstrate how traditional crafts can work with contemporary art. Combining fragments of land, vintage objects, and culturally specific patterns, I create a nonlinear dialogue with the past.”

Scouring both sides of the Atlantic for antique textiles and prints, Mattai deftly applies to each a contemporary interjection creating a conspicuous contrast. “Introducing an artificial element into the organic sphere interrupts and complicates the original scape,” Mattai says. “Tension and tranquility co-exist in one piece.” Rather than distracting from the underlying image, however, the carefully conceived and executed impositions serve instead to pull the eye deeper into the ancient image and challenge the mind to reconcile warring conceptual textures. The effect is immediate, dramatic, and impossible to resist.

Guests to K Contemporary this April will witness Mattai at her multi-faceted best. Skilled in drawing, painting, collage and video, she will also present in “Sweet Asylum” several examples of the captivating installation pieces for which she is increasingly acclaimed.

“Suchitra Mattai is conceptually brilliant and a true multi-media artist,” says K Contemporary’s director and co-owner Doug Kacena, “Her work is incredibly engaging and layered with meaning.”

“The way art is presented is changing, and the way we experience art is changing, too. A big part of our mission is to provide more immersive, experiential exhibitions that let people get a little more lost in the work, and that’s exactly what Suchitra brings to K Contemporary. We’re excited to work with a genuinely creative artist of her caliber, and thrilled to host ‘Sweet Asylum.’” Suchitra Mattai

Suchitra Mattai was born in Guyana, South America, with Caribbean and South Asian heritage, and has had the opportunity to live in places as varied as Halifax and Wolfville, Nova Scotia, Philadelphia, New York City, Minneapolis, Paris, France and Udaipur, India. These diverse natural and cultural environments greatly influenced Suchitra’s work and research. While her practice includes a wide range of materials and ideas, the primary focus is on the role of land and environment in the creation of identity. Mattai creates landscapes that incorporate cultural artifacts in an effort to subvert their original meanings. Through painting, drawing, collage, installation, video, and sculpture, she weaves narratives of “the other,” invoking fractured landscapes and reclaiming cultural artifacts, often colonial and domestic in nature.

Mattai received an MFA in Painting and Drawing and an MA in South Asian art, from the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. Her work has been exhibited in Philadelphia, New York City, Washington, DC, Minneapolis, Denver, Austin, Berlin, London, and Wales and has appeared in various publications such as The Daily Serving (Mailee Hung), New American Paintings, and will be in a forthcoming book, “A Collection of Contemporary Women’s Voices on Guyana,” (Grace Anezia Ali, Brill Press). Recent and upcoming projects include commissions for the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver and the Denver Art Museum/SkyHouse Denver, solo exhibitions at the Center for Visual Arts, Metropolitan State University of Denver, as well as group exhibitions with the Center on Contemporary Art Seattle, RedLine Contemporary Art, and a travelling exhibition with the Museum of the Americas, Washington, DC.

Panel Discussion with Suchitra Mattai
Saturday, April 21, 2-4 pm Moderated by Yasmeen Siddiqui

Yasmeen Siddiqui is the founder of Minerva Projects, an incubator space in Denver, Colorado, that is tailored for artists and curators who seek to contextualize and historicize their ideas in an environment that encourages experimentation and new possibilities. Minerva Projects is committed to clarifying, by accurately describing and theorizing, the practices of artists and curators through engaging with leading thinkers and writers who animate its traveling exhibitions program and the Minerva Press book series. The project was launched in October 2017.

Siddiqui is also a writer and curator; pasts subjects have included Do Ho Suh, Consuelo Castañeda, Hassan Khan, Linda Ganjian, Pia Lindman, Lara Baladi, Mary Carothers, Matt Lynch and Chris Vorhees, and Mel Charney. Her writing has appeared on Hyperallergic and in ART PAPERS, the Cairo Times, Medina Magazine, Flash Art, Modern Painters, NKA and The Brooklyn Rail, and in books and exhibition catalogues including: Fault Lines Contemporary African Art and Shifting Landscapes. inIVA, London, 2003; A Contingent Object of Research. Storefront Books, New York, 2010; Do Ho Suh: Home Within Home. Leeum: Samsung Museum of Art, 2012; “Do Ho Suh” in If you were to live here: The 5th Auckland Triennial, 2013; On Architecture. Melvin Charney a Critical Anthol- ogy. Edited by Louis Martin. Montreal: McGill — Queen’s University Press, 2013. Additional panelists will be announced