Suchitra Mattai Guyana, b. 1973
“I say I’m a storyteller, but the story does not only come from history. When you’re thinking about what constitutes memory, it’s part truth and it’s part myth.”
- Suchitra Mattai
Suchitra Mattai blends painting, sculpture and installation with methods suggestive of domestic labor which she learned from her grandmother, such as sewing, embroidery and crocheting, to tell visual stories that touch on her Indo-Caribbean lineage. The work addresses such topics as the legacy of colonialism, and relationships between culture and gender roles. Mattai frequently uses found materials in her pieces that have their own embedded meanings, creating a call and response between the materials, the topics addressed in the work, and processes involved in the work’s creation.
The stories Mattai works with originate partly from her individual biography and life experiences, partly from official accounts of the heritage of Indo-Caribbean people, and partly from the imagination. “I say I’m a storyteller, but the story does not only come from history,” says Mattai. “When you’re thinking about what constitutes memory, it’s part truth and it’s part myth.”
Part of a diaspora that includes both South Asia and the Caribbean, Mattai has lived in Canada, the United States, India, and Europe. In her work, she deploys the disorientation of not really having a single home, a feeling that informs much of how she thinks about identity. By unraveling and re-imagining the narratives of the past, Mattai gives voice to people who have been quieted, or left out entirely of official historical accounts. She often uses materials such as vintage saris in her work, which relate to post-colonial concerns and contemporary issues surrounding gender, labor, and family.
Mattai’s various perspectives are literally weaved into her compositions, as she creates layered artworks that echo the multiplicitous stories inhabiting the work. Often, there is a sense of dislocation in the work between reality and what feels more like a dreamworld. The uncanny feeling being evoked is that of an idyllic, yet unfinished world.
Mattai received an MFA in painting and drawing and an MA in South Asian art from the University of Pennsylvania, PA. Her work is in the collections of Crystal Bridges Museum, the Denver Art Museum, and the Taylor Art Collection, among others, and has been reviewed in publications such as Hyperallergic, the Boston Globe, Widewalls, and Wallpaper Magazine, among others.
Major exhibitions of Mattai's work include Realms of Refuge, Kavi Gupta, Chicago, USA; Sharjah Biennial 14, Sharjah, UAE; State of the Art 2020 at Crystal Bridges Museum/the Momentary; MCA Denver, CO, USA; Boise Museum of Art, ID, USA; Center for Visual Arts, Metropolitan State University of Denver, CO, USA and the San Antonio Museum of Art, TX, USA.
Suchitra MattaiA Mother's Glow, 2021Vintage saris, (including my Mother's wedding saris from Guyana), ghungroo bells, fabric, rope net, and boas)95 x 52 x 3 in
241.3 x 132.1 x 7.6 cm
Suchitra MattaiA Time Machine for Renewed Love, 2021Acrylic, spray paint, gouache, oil, vintage brooches, embroidery floss, faux peacock feathers, and appliqués on canvas60 x 72 x 2 in
152.4 x 182.9 x 5.1 cm
Suchitra MattaiHeld Still (in a silent echo), 2021Embroidery, Mixed media, Appliqué on Vintage Tapestry85 x 130 x 5 in
215.9 x 330.2 x 12.7 cm
Realms of RefugeKavi Gupta | 219 N. Elizabeth St. Chicago, IL 60607 10 Jul - 30 Oct 2021Kavi Gupta is proud to present Realms of Refuge, a group show bringing together for the first time new works by eight of the most dynamic artists working today: Dominic Chambers, Allana Clarke, Basil Kincaid, Tomokazu Matsuyama, Suchitra Mattai, Michi Meko, Devan Shimoyama, and Alisa Sikelianos-Carter.