Contemporary multimedia artist and scholar, Shukla Sawant’s areas of artistic and academic interests include art in colonial India, postcolonial theory, South Asian modernism and contemporary art movements, photography and printmaking, new media practices and artist collectives and organisations.
Born in New Delhi, Sawant obtained a Bachelor of Fine Art Degree from the College of Art, New Delhi, in 1984, and completed a Lithography Studies programme in graphic art from the Ecole Nationale Supérieure Des Beaux Arts, Paris in 1986. She received two Master of Fine Arts degrees, from the College of Art, New Delhi (1989) and the Slade School of Art and Centre for Theoretical Studies, University College London (1997). From 2001-15, Sawant was the Associate Professor of Visual Studies at the School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University. She received her PhD from the institution in 2015 and has since worked as Professor of Visual Studies. In 1990, Sawant, along with Kavita Nayar, Kanchan Chander and others, founded the Indian Printmakers Guild, aiming to spread awareness about printmaking and balance the cost-effectiveness and artististic potential of the medium.
Sawant’s oeuvre combines printmaking, photography, readymades and sculpture. She frequently layers sound in the backdrop of her installations. In her multimedia installation series Remembering Pandita (2009), Sawant explored the life of Pandita Ramabai — a nineteenth century figure who is believed to have challenged the Brahmanical social order and paved the way for equity for women but has been largely overlooked in mainstream dialogue. One section of Remembering Pandita, a sculptural wall titled Ek Vastra (2009), comprises three sarees and eight books that merge into a long rope, symbolising a body. Another section of the installation, titled In Praise of Heresy (2009), depicts sculptures of Ramabai on glass books.
Her works have been exhibited at Delhi Silpi Chakra (1986); Harriet Green Gallery, London (1997); and Anant Art Gallery (2006, 2009). She has also received several awards, including the All India Fine Arts and Crafts Society Diamond Jubilee Award (1988) and the Yuva Award of the Sahitya Kala Parishad (1989). Some of Sawant’s notable publications include Instituting Artists’ Collectives: The Bangalore/Bengaluru Experiments with ‘Solidarity Economies’ (2012) and an archeological and photographic project titled The Trace Beneath: The Photographic Residue in the Early Twentieth-Century Paintings of the Bombay School (2017). She also actively collaborates with KHOJ International Artists’ Association.
As of writing, she lives in New Delhi.
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