India’s bright colours and vivid street life inspire the nation’s Pop artists.
Delhi’s United Art Fair, held last 14 to 17 September 2013 at Delhi’s Pragati Maidan, featured several Indian pop artists, whose brightly coloured canvases are attracting wide-spread attention. Art Radar highlights four Indian Pop artists you should know.
Pop art is becoming increasingly popular in India. Or so says national newspaper the Morung Express, which tipped brightly coloured Pop Art was one of the highlights of the United Art Fair, held in Delhi from 14 to 17 September 2013. Organised by Nature Morte’s Peter Nagy, photographer Ram Rehman, and curators Alka Pande, Heidi Fichtner, Meera Madeline Menezes and Mayank Mansingh Kaul, the United Art Fair included approximately 400 artists from India and abroad who exhibited a minimum of three works each.
What inspires India’s pop artists?
An article posted on Indian art blog Trivial Matters says that India’s colourful Pop Art originates from the cluttered city streets, filled with Bollywood posters, hand-painted signage and street art.
Who are India’s Pop artists?
Even though Bhupen Khakhar (1934-2003) was formally trained as an artist and art critic, he was employed as a chartered accountant from 1964 to the 1980s. In spite of his day job, during that time he exhibited his art widely in notable galleries and museums such as Tokyo’s Waseda Gallery and Japan Foundation, the Gate Foundation in Amsterdam, Knoedler Gallery and the Tate Gallery, London.
Bhupen Khakhar led the way for the younger generation of India’ Pop artists. Khakar was, according to art historian Shivaji K. Panikkar, “the first Indian artist to make creative use of India’s much undervalued, hybrid visual culture, enabling him to subvert the dominant purist trends, particularly abstraction.”
Based in Delhi, brothers Manil and Rohit Gupta have worked collaboratively as ManilRohit since 2011. They are represented by Nature Morte gallery, which describes their art as “aggressive and ribald” and whose influences come from a multitude of high and low cultural sources like comics, graffiti and art historical painting.
Manil has a BFA degree in Applied Art from Delhi College of Art while Rohit is self-trained. ManilRohit’s solo show “Eco-Friendly Hornification” (1 – 8 December 2011) at Nature Morte included paintings that the gallery described as skillful, energetic and not a little sardonic.
By using thought bubbles and speech blurbs, they introduce texts into the bodies of their images, mocking the ego-driven nature of all art-making, the adolescent narcissism that lies at the heart of culture.
Artist and photographer Sushant Panda is inspired by local folk culture. In a Morung Express article, he discussed how folk culture influenced him like the tradition of performing tigers in India’s Ganjam district that provided a framework to which he adds “fashion elements and alphabets that lend it a pop status. The use of bright colours comes from the folk culture of body painting we have.”
Panda cites his association with Bollywood and the fashion industry as working in creative tension with his small-town roots in his work, in which he tries to “bring together both street culture and the glamour of entertainment.”
Akhlaq Ahmad lives in Delhi and got his artistic start in an unusual way: painting Bollywood posters in Mumbai and signage for fruit juice stands in Delhi.
His poster and sign painting finances Ahmad’s art school education, through which means he aspires to become a painting teacher. Speaking to the Morung Express, Ahmad explains how he uses pop culture to reach young audiences.
Usually, people think that only if you paint in bright colours, it represents kitsch and pop. I am here to break that thought process. For me, the bygone is pop and it will always be popular. We just need to connect to the audiences. Popular culture or pop art finds direct resonance with today’s audience, and has power to attract the younger crowd.
- India Art Fair Founder Neha Kirpal sees galleries “upping the game” – ArtTactic podcast – March 2012 – as Indian art grows internationally, quality control becomes more important
- What is ahead for contemporary Asian art, 2012 and beyond? Part IV – February 2012 – how art fairs, including the India Art Fair, are placing emphasis on collector education
- India Art Fair 2012: For international galleries, India focus among emerging economies – February 2012 – find out what the overall reception of the fair was this time around
- India Art Fair’s Collectors’ Circle educates new buyers – December 2011 – an ongoing membership programme which aims to connect and educate emerging collectors
- India Art Summit is India’s first contemporary art fair – August 2009 – over thirty galleries from India and abroad
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