The work, Living Sculpture, shows a man wearing nothing but his shoes and socks, in bed with a blow-up doll. The two figures are locked in an intimate embrace. Before pigeonholing it as cheap erotica, the painting begs a closer look. The room is shut, the curtains are drawn and the man is gazing lovingly, not lustfully at the inanimate object. Alienation and loneliness, according to its artist, is just one of the many evils of consumerism that we never saw coming. This thought forms the theme of his work.
Venkanna’s works are erotic, with most of his subjects in an orgiastic frenzy, but dig deeper and you will see the layers of the artist’s concerns for contemporary issues. “No one really talks about sex, and when they do it is to provoke a reaction or to poke fun. I find sexual fantasy a powerful motif. Also, the sexual behaviour of human beings is habituated by societal norms and conditions. By examining this behaviour, I want to question these norms,” says the Vadodara-based artist.
His latest show at Gallery Maskara in Colaba, titled “Celebration”, addresses thoughts on society using water colour, acrylic and mixed media. In Evolution, a large, pink-skinned, pregnant hermaphrodite with swollen breasts and an erect phallus is sprawled across a bed. Through this figure, the artist conjures a world where the barriers between genders is broken. He does the same in Love Life where homosexual couples fornicate outdoors.
For the show, Venkanna has also re-imagined famous works by artists such as David Hockney, Henri Rousseau and Piet Mondrian. “The political and social contexts underlying these works were different when they were made. I represent these imageries according to my ideas,” he says. For instance, Milk Bath, which talks about beauty being skin deep, has a charcoal-skinned Venus de Milo-like figure being bathed in breast milk.
Similarly, French artist Rousseau’s work that is mostly centered around forests and wildlife, is the inspiration behind Celebration. The piece shows a large forest clearing lit by a chandelier where hundreds of humans are seen fiercely copulating with other two elements of nature: the flora and fauna. “Through this sexual violence, I want to highlight the abuse that we’re inflicting on nature,” says the 34-year-old artist. Sexual metaphors for human patterns excite him the most. “Once you begin examining sexual behaviour of human beings, it is incredible how many issues of society one can touch upon. The cause and effect of a contemporary society’s problems can be traced in a sexual act,” he says.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines