Introspection through the immigrant lens

Da Vinci Art Alliance presents Shwarga Bhattacharjee’s When the Subaltern Speaks

2 minute read
A human-shaped sculpture has a rope connected to it and another sculpture. Illustrations on canvas are behind it on the wall
Shwarga Bhattacharjee's exhibit will be on display at DVAA through mid-September. (Photo by Veronica Knell.)

Shwarga Bhattacharjee’s exhibition When the Subaltern Speaks explores his lived experience as an immigrant from Bangladesh living in America. Through a series of abstract paintings, animated illustrations, and sculptures, Bhattacharjee uses his art as a means to capture the duality of the immigrant experience.

An introspection on identity

Born in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Bhattacharjee moved to the United States in 2014, a time ripe with shifts in the political, economic, and social climate. Bhattacharjee comments on the complexity of his immigrant experience, saying “on one side, I am going through a seemingly never-ending phase of adaptation to the new societal and political culture in the United States. On the other side, I am engaged in a continuous introspection into my origin, which has driven me to delve deeper into my South Asian heritage.” His work serves as a continued search for identity within the struggle of simultaneously experiencing colonial and post-colonial cultures.

Bhattacharjee is the Da Vinci Art Alliance’s 2022 Michelle Angela Ortiz Fellow and received an MFA in drawing and painting from Tyler School of Art and Architecture, Temple University, and a BFA in drawing and painting from the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Dhaka. Currently based in North Philadelphia, Bhattacharjee’s work has been shown across the United States and Bangladesh at the Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning (JCAL), Temple Contemporary, and the Dhaka Art Summit. In 2021, he became the recipient of the Peter Benoliel Fellowship at the Center For Emerging Visual Artists in Philadelphia.

When the Subaltern Speaks is an exhibition centering the intersectionality between modern identity, postcolonial borders, transnationalism, racism, and the lived experience of migration and displacement. It’s an abstract exhibition confronting the lasting impact of British post-imperialism, emigration, and emergent modern identities in South Asia.

Bhattacharjee studies history to inspire his work, specifically the British-led Partition of India in 1947, dividing the subcontinent into two independent nation states: Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan. Born and raised in Bangladesh, Bhattacharjee presents a “visual narrative rooted in his own transnational experiences, the intellectual history of postcolonial theory, and the concept of the subaltern.”

Bhattacharjee wants to tell stories through his work. “They can be about history, identity, and politics but at the same time can be about color, texture, or composition,” says Bhattacharjee. “My theoretical research inspired me to think about how I can effectively incorporate my thoughts into my work visually, and my research and experimentation with texture, mediums, and surfaces motivate me to create something exciting and new for my practice.”

Being an artist is a challenging life and Bhattacharjee believes you have to survive in two different ways: “Financially and creatively,” says Bhattacharjee. “Getting a degree is one thing and continuing the practice is something else.”

What, When, Where

When the Subaltern Speaks. By Shwarga Bhattacharjee. Through September 14, 2022, at Da Vinci Art Alliance, 704 Catharine Street, Philadelphia. (267) 388-2835 or

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