Thursday Spotlight: Sangram Majumdar

Tell us about your background.

I was born in Calcutta, India and moved to the US when I was in middle school. Since then I’ve lived all over the US including AZ, RI, WI, IN, MD. I’ve been teaching painting and drawing at the Maryland Institute College of Art since 2003 and live in Brooklyn, NY.

Name some people, artists, artistic genres, etc. that have been influential in your work.

Here we go, in no particular order: Early medieval painting, Persian and Indian miniatures, the Unicorn Tapestries at the Cloisters (MET), bas reliefs and sculptures in Indian temples and Italian churches, patterns, decorative motifs, ritual, authors such as Italo Calvino, Gabriel Garcia Lopez, Orhan Pamuk, filmmakers such as Hitchcock, Tarkovsky, Bergman, Cocteau, Fellini, Satyajit Ray, a vast array of dead artists including Velasquez, Goya, Hokusai, Breughel, Burchfield, Bosch, Bonnard, Grosz, Beckmann, certain artists who worked against the tide such as Philip Guston, Giorgio Morandi, Edwin Dickinson, late paintings of Paul Cezanne, early works and the ‘thinking’ of Willem DeKooning, the works Henri Matisse did between 1914-17, Tintoretto, late Titian, Giacometti’s sculptures, a slew of contemporary artists such as Sarah Sze, Neo Rauch, Amy Sillman, Vija Celmins, David Altmejd, and most importantly, my close artist friends.

Where and how do you get your ideas?

I am influenced by everything, including film, books, my environment, memory/imagination, ‘bad’ art, high/low art, and most importantly sometimes my own work.

What materials do you work with? Describe your technical processes.

I am a painter, so my materials are fairly standard – oil paint (lots of it) on prepared linen canvas. Sometimes I will work on prepared paper or panels for smaller works, or work in other dry media and collage. I am a process driven artist and there are many failed paintings underneath the one that stays.

What do you find to be the most challenging part of being creative? What is the best part of being creative?

The most challenging part for me, is also the best part – which is to stay fresh, not repeat myself and at the end of the day try to surprise myself. So, the challenge is to maintain an ongoing conversation between the notion of the familiar and the questions it raises through the medium of painting. It’s about this gap between what we think we know and what is right in front of us. But other than that, the best part is getting to pursue something I love to do.

What advice would you give to someone seeking advice about being an artist?

Be honest with yourself about what you want even if it seems out of sync with the contemporary discourse. At the same time read, and look at everything around you, and talk to people. Welcome change – it’s inevitable and signals that you are growing. Learn to talk about your work, and maintain an ongoing conversation with a group of friends whose ideas challenge you. And most importantly find the time to make work. It doesn’t matter if it’s ‘good’ or ‘bad’ but it means you are invested in the conversation.

Sangram’s website

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