Find out everything you need to know about pigmentexplosion and its founder, Sanchita Islam.

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At a glance

Headed by artist Sanchita Islam, pigmentexplosion was initially set up to perform live art events in the Brick Lane area. Since 1999 pigmentexplosion has branched out into projects that spill into film, painting, drawing, writing, plays, photography and book production.

Sanchita Islam

If you read Sanchita Islam’s CV her journey into the art world has been an unusual one.

Artist, writer and filmmaker Sanchita Islam has worked extensively in the Tower Hamlets region since 1999 and has participated widely in exhibitions and screenings, working closely with organisations such as the Arts Council, British Council and Commonwealth Institute. Pigment Explosion creates projects that engage people through painting/drawing, film, books and photography and aims to reach out to sectors of the public who would not ordinarily have access to the arts. To date Pigment Explosion has worked with old people, women suffering from domestic violence, kids living in the slums of Bangladesh, street kids in Jakarta, kids living on the estates of east London and Kuala Lumpur and most recently patients with mental health problems in Brussels.

Sanchita Islam completed her BSc (econ) and MSc (econ) at the London School of Economics before embarking on a Channel 4 sponsored MA at the Northern Media School in Directing and Screenwriting, and a BA in the Practice and Theory of Visual Art at Chelsea School of Art and Design. She has produced and directed 15 films to date including shorts and one-hour films and exhibited and screened her films in London, Brussels, New York, Paris, Bangladesh, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Rome, India, Pakistan, Frankfurt and Yangon. She has shown at the Whitechapel, ICA and Hayward Gallery and completed over 100 group/solo shows and screenings of her films including the show Schizophrenia Part one where she showed as four artists at the Truman Brewery in 2007. She was artist in resident at the Whitechapel Art Gallery and artist in resident at Artscape and Shoreditch House, and her art has featured in various venues around London such as Shoreditch House, Mark Hix’s restaurants, and the Clifton Hotel Group in Bristol. The Arts Council, BBC and British Council have funded her films and five books. These include From Briarwood to Barishal to Brick Lane, Old Meets Young, Hidden, Connecting Kids and Avenues. Pigment Explosion branched out into book publication producing its first publication The Cloud Catcher. Chipmunka Press published her first volume of poems Eternal Pollution of a Dented Mind and her novel Gungi Blues in 2008. The theatre group ESTACA ZERO TEATRO in Portugal performed her two plays, The Suitcase and Hello. In 2010 the UK Film Council commissioned the animation film The White Wall.  

She had a mid-career retrospective at Rich Mix in March 2013. Brussels based art organisation vzw KAOS and the Psycho-Social Centre St-Alexius awarded her a grant to complete the second scroll project with patients suffering from mental health problems in Brussels 2014. Rich Mix invited Pigment Explosion to exhibit this second scroll and perform a play about art, madness and disability in June 2015. The Arts Council and British Council awarded her an Artist International Development Fund grant in 2014 to complete a new scroll project in Bangladesh and Burma. In January 2015 she screened her film White Wall at the Dhaka International Film Festival and in March 2015 she screened White Wall and read excerpts from her new book at Pansodan Gallery in Yangon, Burma.

Muswell Hill Press published her new book, written under the pseudonym Q.S Lam Schizophrenics Can Be Good Mothers Too, in January 2015. The book was launched in London at Shoreditch House and Rich Mix in June 2015 and at Brick Lane Bookshop Feb 2016. She exhibited her War on a Scroll Part 1 created with patients suffering from mental health problems at KAOS, Brussels, Feb 2016.

In June she spoke at the House of Lords about mental health hosted by Baroness Kennedy; in collaboration with the 1001 First Critical Days campaign. ‘Tomorrow’s Child’ Sanchita’s work featured in this landmark show emphasising the importance of maternal mental health on the baby’s future mental well-being. This year she is publishing her first children’s book, The Tree People, Oyez publishers, 2017; in 2017 she is publishing her second volume of poems, Dented Volume 1 Chipumka Press 2017; her writing is being published in the book The Recovery Letters, 2017 Jessica Kingsley publishers; finally she designed the book cover and also has her essay featured in A Day in my Head Chipmunka Press, 2017.

She is currently working with the Malaysian Mental Health Association and just completed her first scroll with mentally ill patients. She also spoke in Singapore about mental health in October 2016 at the Second Asia Pacific Conference on Mental Health, she will also be speaking again in December at Westminster, invited by the obstetrician Dr Raja Gangopadhyay.

In 2016 she launched her global mental health campaign MentalHealth4All to conduct scroll projects with mentally ill people around the world and raise basic mental health awareness.

Sanchita is now campaigning globally for better mental health, already presenting her book/film/art related to mental health, via the British Council in Burma, Bangladesh and Malaysia. She writes a blog artmotherhoodandmadness@tumblr.com and also regularly contributes for the Huffington Post writing about mental health, politics, social issues and motherhood as well as writing her own blog artmotherhoodandmadness@tumblr.com

Our approach

Pigment Explosion has developed a reputation as an innovative arts organisation operating within an international framework completing projects for the Arts Council, the Barings Foundation, the British Council, the Commonwealth Institute and the Peabody Trust, to name a few. When Pigment Explosion was commissioned to make several films in Bangladesh for the Commonwealth Institute, the organisation trained local Bangladeshi youth to help in the production of the film in order to transfer Pigment Explosion’s skills and expertise. The organisation deliberately works with marginalised groups and individuals who otherwise would never have an opportunity to work in the creative industries. Pigment Explosion believes in the empowering impact of the arts and has completed projects with the elderly, to battered women, to old people, to street kids in Bangladesh to people suffering from mental health problems in Brussels.

Sanchita remains staunchly independent and has tried to create a buzz outside the contemporary art scene while keeping one big toe firmly in it. She has been running Pigment Explosion, an organisation specialising in international art projects, since 1999.