March Mostra 2017 / Meet the Artists… Sinta Tantra

Our annual March Mostra is opening tomorrow and we are really looking forward to seeing what our six resident artists and architects have produced over the course of the past three months. As the finishing touches are made to the gallery, we bring you a teaser of what to expect in the fifth interview of the Meet the Artists blog series, this time with Sinta Tantra, our inaugural Bridget Riley Fellow.

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Photo by Antonio Palmieri

Sinta Tantra describes her work as ‘painting on an architectural scale’, creating works that celebrate the spectacle, questioning the decorative, functional and social role of art. The compositional arrangements are rooted in formalism, when private becomes public and when the viewer becomes active. Her work is an ‘overlay’ of colour which inserts its identity within pre-existing spaces – heightening a sense of fantasy within a functional context. 

So far, has being in Rome made a big impact on your work?

Realistically speaking, it’s quite a difficult city to settle into – visiting as a tourist is quite a different experience to living here. Naturally, I am of course interested in the many artists and writers who were inspired by Rome, but equally, I’m also interested in the people who weren’t – James Joyce is an example. He said something like, ‘Rome was like visiting the corpse of your dead grandmother’. Quite a shocking thing to say, but for me it’s about looking at ideas around the ‘Grand Tour’ and subverting that.

In his letters to his brother, Joyce writes about walking around the city and how he has a new idea for a book which would later on become Ulysses. From this, I became interested in how you walk around Rome, the relationship the body has to the city and how our own individual journeys become invisible line drawings traced/overlaid onto the city itself.

I’ve also been inspired by the colours of Rome, not only in nature – there’s amazing light here –  but also in the fashion, style and music – everything is very vivid compared to say an ‘English taste’. People here seem to walk with confidence, a sense of ‘peacocking’ and I love it! The colours in my recent paintings have been inspired by this – more vivid, more reds and yellows.

Is this residency different in that, given that you are here for a longer period than usual, you wouldn’t usually have the opportunity to do two mostre?

Yes absolutely, I see it as both a residency and an academic programme with things being divided term by term. It’s very structured, so it’s quite nice having two mostre and being able to reassess and reflect at the end of each three-month period.

Have you found it difficult to manage all the travelling you’ve been doing?

Yes, I’ve been doing some travelling outside of Italy as I’m managing a few projects back in the UK and in Asia.  I’ve been trying to feed all these influences and inspirations back into my studio in Rome – the idea that ‘all roads lead to Rome’.

In your introductory talk, you showed us a lot of large-scale, outdoor installations – has the residency in Rome been a challenge, given that for this mostra you are in a way confined to the gallery space?

In the first term, I wanted to focus on settling in, contextualising my location, research and making paintings. The second term I’ll be doing public art projects and working outside the BSR. One of the things I’m interested in doing next term – maybe going back to this idea of journeys and walking around the city – is to create three mini public art interventions based on James Joyce’s walking route around the city.

If you could do an installation anywhere in the city, where would you choose? 

I’d love to do any of the piazzas. The piazzas here are like platforms or stages where people congregate. They have a very different feel to squares in the UK. Maybe that’s another thing I was inspired by – this Italian attitude of being ‘seen to be seen’. It’s quite dazzling for a foreigner because Romans come across with such confidence – a kind of bravado which I like and am trying to incorporate into my work.

What is usually your approach to making a final piece, and has that changed at all?

Regarding the painting process, it’s still the same. I’d say the colours have changed though because of the natural light in the studios. I can mix colours with more intensity, as opposed to London where I work under electrical light.

Do you think that being in an environment with both scholars and artists has had a different impact on your work than it would have had you been working solely alongside other artists?

The interdisciplinary side is very evident – scholars see and speak very differently to artists. But because of the community and the activities that go on here, conversations between us happen quite naturally.

Also, usually on a typical art residency, artists work more independently. The environment here at the BSR feeds into your work – you might be having a conversation with someone at dinner who will immediately take you to the library after coffee to give you a book to read.

Can you tell me a bit about your final piece for the Mostra?

It’s part painting, part sculpture, part domestic object. It consists of four painted screens configured in a way so that it’s free-standing rather than on the wall. Some of the motifs on it are inspired by the Piranesi prints that I came across at the BSR.

When it comes to choosing what to show in the Mostra, what is the process? Do you start a work thinking, ‘I’m going to show this in the Mostra‘, or do you come to a selection process and think, for example, ‘these three pieces work well together’?

A bit of everything: I plan for things quite in advance, but then again I take such pleasure in positioning my paintings in the gallery and how it interacts with the architecture. This is quite different from my public artworks that are always placed precisely.

And do you think that you can do that because it’s a six-month process – do you think that, say if you were here for just three months, you would try to encompass that whole process into that shorter time frame?

It’s very important as an artist to not just produce work, but to produce work, reflect on it, and then make new work in response to that. Having the six months enables you to learn a lot more.


Sinta’s work will be exhibited alongside the five resident artists in the March Mostra; open 16.30-19.00, Saturday 18 March until Saturday 25 March 2017, closed Sundays.

Interview conducted by Ellie Johnson.

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