Who are India’s Pop artists? Pick of 4

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.

Watch the video of Indian Pop artist Akhlaq Ahmad who goes by the name of Painter Shabbu filmed by Hanif Kureshi.

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 PandeHeidi FichtnerMeera 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.

Manil and Rohit Gupta, 'The Legend of Me', 2011, acrylic on canvas, 183 x 183 cm. Image courtesy the artists.

Manil and Rohit Gupta, ‘The Legend of Me’, 2011, acrylic on canvas, 183 x 183 cm. Image courtesy the artists.

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.

Bhupen Khakar 'Grey Buddha', watercolour on paper, 98 x 67 cm. Image courtesy Brian Weinstein.

Bhupen Khakar ‘Grey Buddha’, watercolour on paper, 98 x 67 cm. Image courtesy Brian Weinstein.

Who are India’s Pop artists?

Bhupen Khakhar

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.

Manil and Rohit Gupta, 'BYOB', 2011, acrylic on canvas, 183 x 183 cm. Image courtesy the artists.

Manil and Rohit Gupta, ‘BYOB’, 2011, acrylic on canvas, 183 x 183 cm. Image courtesy the artists.

ManilRohit

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.

Sushant Panda, photograph. Screen capture of Sushant Panda's Facebook page.

Sushant Panda, photograph. Screen capture of Sushant Panda’s Facebook page.

Sushant Panda

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 poses in front of his handpainted fruit stand sign. Image courtesy the National. http://www.thenational.ae/news/world/south-asia/indias-vibrant-street-art-preserved-one-byte-at-a-time#full

Akhlaq Ahmad poses in front of his handpainted fruit stand sign. Image courtesy the National.

Akhlaq Ahmad

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.

Susan Kendzulak

Related Topics: Indian artists, art events in India, street art, Pop Art

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Comments

Who are India’s Pop artists? Pick of 4 — 4 Comments

  1. Well i don know much know about pop art but i found this guy called “doodle_abhi” on instagarm from he looks like some to me..

  2. muy interesante lo que hacen los artistas pop de la India a través de todo el colorido y mensajes de la calle, y también de las tendencias formales del arte de otras culturas y países

  3. Indian Pop Art is fallacious nomenclature. Bhupen Khakhar gave homosexuality a respectful space within the aesthetics of Indian Modernism. Three others’ works hardly qualify art. P Nagy, former dope-head tripping NYC art gallery flunky ….

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