Walking through Art District III in Delhi’s Lado Sarai, one can’t help but react to a striking sculpture of a face full of eyes. This explosion of eyes, per se, is a recurring motif at the ongoing solo art exhibition ‘Appetite for Revolution’ by brothers-artists Manil and Rohit Gupta.
The duo, having entered the Indian art scene around five years back, have already grabbed attention with their artworks, that are sardonic comments on Indian politics, cinema, gender inequality, mythology, female foeticide, gender inequality and intolerance, and a whole gamut of social issues.
As international artist Peter Nagy says, “This is the art of a new, cosmopolitan India, with a plethora of references both international and indigenous.” The 14 artworks and one central sculpture are replete with “symbolic references. The recurring eye motif refers to exploding numbers, perception, judgement, and the much talked-about intolerance. India, where numbers are an integral part of comparison, the eyes also refer to pressure and stress that affects the performance and existence in the contemporary world,” explains Manil Gupta.
The siblings have interpreted these varied ideas in a comic way with visually dense narratives and references. “Our body work has all the elements that comes from society with our perspective and that is the reason we draw references from public figures, books and incidents. For instance, the most controversial work of ours ‘The Chronicle of Sitaphal’ draws references of Hanuman from the Ramayana,” says Gupta.
The brothers first collaborated in 2011, when Manil (37) quit exhibiting his artworks and sculptures as an independent artist and Rohit (30) left his art photography job to start ManilRohit. Since then, their work has been experiments in various media like paintings, sculptures, installation and design. They even converted their car into the popular Public Art Car project called ‘The Holographic Love Machine’ that got them much attention and appreciation at an early stage. They create complex and crazy paintings that combine multiple styles and subjects into one canvas. The use of glowing and metallic colours with shaped canvases make their paintings colourful and give a comic-like element to their work.
“It was very clear that our art had to have a motive and not just be a random piece of décor,” says Gupta, adding, “with time it has evolved with more information and purposeful dialogues.” Since the two had very individual styles before joining forces, it took a while for them to meld their styles together as well. Previously “we gave more freedom to each other to work on subjects we loved, but now it is filtered and concentrated, keeping the society in mind and that has helped us…create an impact,” he explains.
Gupta, an applied arts graduate from Delhi says, “Human figures have always been an integral part of our art because it helps the masses to relate. After all, what we draw is inspired by the society and is not just an abstract art. For instance, one of our current works ‘Daily Soaps’ portrays four human figures on a scooter — the reference is drawn from our childhood days in Lucknow with our parents reflecting the daily chaos of life and our struggle with it.”
Controversy is not a stranger for the artist-brothers, whose ‘The Chronicle of Sitaphal’ was removed from the Pune Biennale “after many Right wing supporters objected to the artwork since it draws references from mythology and portrays female genitals”, says Gupta. And though the artist feels that the art fraternity has eveolved, art itself is going through a tough phase in India. ‘The Chronicle of Sitaphal’, also exhibited at the current art show, depicted female gentials with Hanuman (from Ramayana) — the core idea was to show how conflicts and chaos are created in society with women as major reason behind it, says Gupta.
So, does that impact the kind of work one can expect from ManilRohilt? Unlikely, as Gupta says: “I think society needs to understand that art cannot grow in isolation, it has to be a part of society and together needs to work for betterment.”
‘Appetite for Revolution’ is on display at the Art District III, Lado Sarai, New Delhi, till January 19, 2016, from 10am to 6pm.
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