Heartbreak Picnic: A Duo Exhibition by Bhasha Chakrabarti and Matt Smoak

23 June - 6 August 2022

Grove Collective is pleased to present the upcoming exhibition Heartbreak Picnic, a duo exhibition featuring New Haven-based artists Bhasha Chakrabarti and Matt Smoak, on view at Grove Collective’s Battersea space from June 23rd to August 6th, 2022. This is the first time that Grove Collective has worked with either Chakrabarti or Smoak.

 

In her artist statement, Bhasha Chakrabarti writes that “[she] engage[s] with art-making as a process of mending.” Indeed, mending—work Chakrabarti herself describes as “non-transactional and often delegated to women”—is a term likely not far from the viewer’s lips as they look to the artist’s distinctive quilts. Historically cultivated as a blend of folk art, repair, and familial artefact, Chakrabarti’s quilts feel closely aligned with that which mending, particularly in Chakrabarti’s terms, represents. This ethos, in turn, allows for natural transition into the artist’s mixed-media work. Mending here functions beyond repair, signifying instead a reconstitution—an alternative arrangement of materials to create something entirely new, relying on the physical and temporal fragility of each item proving malleable to the artist’s reimagination, ultimately constituting a coherent work. The nature of photography as a medium—particularly of the “Polaroid” image—is key here: the instant, definite, and often casual image is ripe for rearticulation, its relationship to the moment of its creation growing increasingly tenuous over time and distance. 

 

Matt Smoak, in turn, often employs bricolage—among other methods—to interrogate the body’s relationship to time and space. For Smoak, this delicate relationality becomes deeply imbued with poetics of the everyday, particularly as it is vectored through the phenomena of reflections. Integral to this poeticism is understanding, and feeling, these spatio-temporal intersections both positivistically as well as negativistically: it is as much about about presence, as it is about absence—where a space of betweenness becomes a primary source for inquiry. It is this thinking that has led Smoak towards reflecting on notions of the divine, the sacramental, and human spatiality—perhaps this emptiness, or even fullness, is a product of embodied sensation, not universal truth? This lends a ghostly air to Smoak’s pie-tinned suits, the items as much a reference for what they are missing as to themselves.

 

Yet, as much as Heartbreak Picnic provides the opportunity for both artists to explore their individual practices, it too is an opportunity for Chakrabarti and Smoak to collaborate as friends. Laden with an insouciant humour, the exhibition gives the viewer a chance at levity without sacrificing the deeply thoughtful nature of the artists’ work, while providing insight to the very human relationships that subtend artistic production. Hence, while Smoak’s Spoon photographs examine distortions and expansions of space and the self across time, they also serve as a tongue-in-cheek, self-deprecating joke: the artist is never far away from the inquisitive child, examining the world through a polished spoon. Likewise, Chakrabarti’s polaroid images simultaneously act as documentation of quilting’s ability to function in service to social “mending,” as well as a lunch shared with close friends. With a keen sense of the close relationship between relatability and meaning-making, each artist is sure to never let their intellectualism obfuscate their work as an examination of universal human experience. 

 

For Grove Collective, Heartbreak Picnic proves the culmination of extensive discussion and travels, as an exercise in careful consideration and intention. Chakrabarti and Smoak’s unique practices have thus breached new ground for the gallery, with their multi-medial approaches inspiring reconsiderations of the gallery space and what is possible within it, rendering the space subservient to the exhibition, not the other way around. It is the hope of Co-Directors Jacob Barnes and Morgane Wagner that this proves one of many opportunities to reorient the gallery’s conception of space and self, while opening up new opportunities for comparable work both at home and abroad.