Photography by Mallikarjun B. Katakol
Lalitha Shankar received her MFA from the Rinehart School of Sculpture at the Maryland Institute, College of Art, in Baltimore, USA, and apprenticed at the Johnson Atelier Fine Arts Foundry in Trenton, New Jersey, USA. She now lives and works out of Bangalore. Her art practice, as a sculptor, has gone through the conventional definition of sculpture as a free-standing piece of art, to produce works where the viewer becomes an integral part of the sculpture, interacting with it and feeling and experiencing the space/enclosure. This deliberate removal of “boundaries” has served in engaging viewers in a dialogue rather than a monologue, and creating experiences and reactions that are unique to each one.
Shankar’s worldview is shaped by the cultural milieu and values that she has grown up with. Over time, she has become increasingly aware of the philosophical and spiritual basis of Indian culture and the way she observes and experiences the world around her. Her works are interpretations of content influenced by her cultural environment, with her body and mind as reference points. Her current works convey her convictions of the universality of both spirit and humankind.
She would now like to further push the boundaries to illuminate and broaden the understanding of the interweaving between contemporary art and social and philosophical issues. Many collectors in the private and corporate sectors in India and abroad own and appreciate Shankar’s work. She has had solo shows in Baltimore and Trenton, New Jersey, USA, Brugge, and Brussels in Belgium, and in Bangalore, India; and in many groups shows in New York, Marsala, Italy, Baltimore, Trenton, Chennai, Delhi and Bangalore.
Besides working individually within her own creative space, she is the co-founder of an arts collective called 3rd Space Lab Collective. 3rd Space Lab is a collective of 4 women artists from digital media, architecture, installation, community arts, performance and design from Bangalore, India and the San Francisco Bay Area, USA.
Co-founded in 2012, 3rd Space Lab Collective is a collective of 4 women artists, Lalitha Shankar, Trena Noval, Shamala Nandesha and Shalini Agrawal, from digital media, architecture, installation, community arts, performance and design from Bangalore, India and the San Francisco Bay Area, USA. Informed by our individual creative work experiences, and our collective inquiry, we aim to create trance-boundary practices that broaden collective understanding. As a group of inter-cultural artists, we have explored and created bodies of work through our unique perspectives, revealing new cultural relationships that become the basis of creative innovation. We strive for equitable collaborations that bridge social divides of class, race, ethnicity, culture and professional expertise that manifest into responsive projects and interactions.
As a collective, we do not have a formal studio space. We have built our 8-year practice through virtual, bi-monthly Skype meetings where we come together for planning, discussions and ideations to develop projects to work with communities, individuals or groups - as our collaborators. We see this “studio” space as a fluid international one that is adaptable, allowing the flexibility we need to engage in our broader society.
We believe the role, as artists and designers, is to be in conversation with society, to prompt our imagination towards new possibilities. We explore ideas that do not end when our role in the work is completed. Instead, our ideas and processes emerge through our engagements with others, continuing our growth beyond the project. Our practice is grounded in community engagement as a medium for all our collaborations.
As a collective, we engage the public, artists, craft communities, designers and disciplinary experts in exploring systems of knowledge sharing. We work concentrically, first in relation to each other, then to our environments and broadly to society. We bring eight years of experience, where we have been working in a relationship with each other, rather than singularly, with the world at large. We have a lot to gain from each other and from the communities we have the privilege of working with. We are not experts, but aspire to build expertise and engage in this kind of work to understand better because it nourishes us as citizens of the world.
Working as a collective and in collaboration with other communities has allowed me to look at my own work from a broader perspective in relation to the world we live in. Experiences from my engagement with communities regarding our environmental issues have made me more aware of our land and inspired me to translate my experiences into the visual.