Despite the central space nude forms have always occupied in the world of art, nudity has probably seen far more dissent than it has enjoyed appreciation over the years. Even more so in these so-called ‘modern’ times as far as India is concerned, where nudity has consistently been met with wide-spread criticism, even when the artworks have been created by M.F. Husain, Souza or Raza, some of the greatest artists of our time. Still, these 20th century renegades continued to push boundaries by sketching, painting and visualising the ‘naked’ truth they saw, so to speak.
Moving into the 21st century, these legends hand over the torch of their legacy to contemporary artists from the subcontinent, exploring nudity in new-age ways through their chosen forms of expression. Without further ado, we present to you a compilation of nine bold artists who don’t shy away from what too many find uncomfortable to express, let alone engage in a dialogue about—through photography, painting, illustrations, and even performance art in the case of one particularly eccentric artist.
I. Bandeep Singh
Surrounding the theme of ‘Sa’ (meaning ‘the feminine’ in Sanksrit), Bandeep Singh’s photography explores symbolism through nudity, discovering the contours of the human body to represent fertility and bold sensuality. The inspiration for his series Gaia’s Song (Gaia, according to ancient Greek mythology, is the primordial Earth Goddess) is Shakti - the elemental power of creation referenced in the Bhagvat Gita and other ancient Indian philosophies.
“My ideas about womanhood, the body, sexuality and sensuality come from very classical Indian references. My idea of the female form developed through the illustrations in the Amar Chitra Katha comics I used to read as a child,” shared Bandeep. The powerful female principle of Shakti expressed through tasteful nude photographs narrate a beautiful story of balance and enlightenment. Bandeep even uses different symbols that mimic the form and shape of a nude body, such as his innovative use of an earthen pot.
The experimentation with light, shadows and representational imagery to portray the human body in a pure form, giving the female nude a Goddess-like aura in every photograph.
II. Farrokh Chothia
Fashion and lifestyle photographer Farrokh Chothia is one of the elite few who can boast about clicking the likes of Aishwarya Rai Bachhan, Malaika Arora Khan and more from Bollywood’s elite. However, his non-commissioned work is far more interesting. Exploring the balance of nature and nudity, his lens captures beautiful forms of the female body juxtaposed with the Earth’s beauty. As he tastefully outlines the nude figures in monochromatic compositions, he tends to stray from the beaten path as he finds new and creative ways of portraying his models’ bodies, but never their faces. In this, the identity of his muses remains hidden within the organic element of their nude form.
The perfect balance of light and darkness that adds a refined touch to the classic black-and-white approach that Farrokh likes to take.
View more of Farrokh’s nude art and other photography here.
III. Madhur Shroff
While the open dialogue around nudity in India that we discussed earlier is tainted with prejudice, taboos and orthodoxy, Madhur Shroff’s photography changes the conversation. His bold usage of light, colours and different elements (props) infuses nude art with exuberant life, and his imagery makes mental associations with happiness, excitement and playfulness. Madhur’s bright photographs not only explore the human body, they celebrate it and revel in its natural beauty.
HG Loves: The elegance and dignity with which his lens captures the nude female form.
Here’s some more of Madhur Shroff’s work.
IV. Pratyush Pushkar
Journalist and wildlife photographer Pratyush Pushkar wholeheartedly appreciates God’s creations in every shape and form. While vibrant peacocks and majestic leopards may be his day-time muses, by night he captures the elegance and grace of the nude female body. Pratyush’s lens is one doused in honesty, and his images come to life as an earnest representation of true female beauty and dignity. He builds a rapport with every woman he photographs before shooting them, so his images resonate their personality and a unique level of comfort.
HG Loves: This founder and director of the Delhi Art Foundation tells a silent but moving story with each portrait he creates.
Follow more of Pratyush’s photography on his Facebook page.
V. Tsohil Bhatia
While most portrayals of nudity find the elegance of the female body, Tsohil (with a silent T) is a breath of fresh air. His experiments with nude expression culminate in self portraits, highlighted with unique props and perspectives. Creating art out of his own body, Tsohil expresses different truths of life through vivid imagery and bold poses. Most other artists explore the beauty and grace of the human body, while this revolutionary photographer is more concerned with its truth and reality. Soft, light and pastel colours are far from his style, and daring honesty is the only filter on his pictures.
HG Loves: Tsohil’s journey exploring his own body, and the realistic world it can represent through dramatic depictions.
VI. Meenakshi Sharma
This self taught artist’s use of dry colours and acrylics make her paintings come to life, as female sensuality is revived on her canvas. As she underscores each imperfection and bathes it in light, shadows give her silhouettes a unique depth and perspective. The most interesting part about Meenakshi’s portraits are her realistic narrations of them, as each painting is so detailed, it almost resembles a picture.
HG Loves: Every woman’s pose is so tasteful, that the glow on her physique resonates with the dignity and poise of her stance.
See more of Meenakshi’s artwork here.
VII. Pranava Prakash
Delhi-based Pranava Prakash is an artist with a cause, as most of his themes draw inspiration from social issues such as xenophobia and violence against women. While art is a form of social commentary, he boldly depicts nudity to strengthen his voice and expression. But, such vivid imagery and daring portrayals are often unappreciated by certain parts of society, at the hands of whom Pranava has faced several criticism.
Talent surrounds him just as much as controversy does, as his nude portrait of M. F. Hussain was a particularly difficult pill for the public to digest. And, nude paintings of Bollywood celebrities even earned Pranava an assault in his gallery in Noida. Still, this artist pursues his hardly-been-seen-before neopop style that works for a cause, not applause.
The vibrant colours explored through his neopop fashion approach via his audacious paint brush.
VIII. Jayesh Joshi
Creator of ‘The Jayman Artworks,’ Jayesh Joshi aims to depict the visual purity and truth of a naked human body, and celebrates its organic form. With simplicity in every stroke, his illustrations explore desire and sexuality as larger truths and natural instincts, never shying away from being bold. Being comfortable with one’s body is not something everyone can do, and this contemporary artist tries to change that by commemorating every contour and curve of the human body.
HG Loves: His pop-culturesque style that draws viewers into new-age expressions of modern nude art.
Follow Jayesh’s Facebook Page to view more of his illustrations.
IX. Inder Salim
While one would think that an artist exploring nudity begins and ends with creating art that contains nudity, Inder Salim is here to tell you to broaden your horizon. This unbelievably unique performer’s intrigue stems from his bold and audacious gestures of art, bordering on the eccentric, even. He is the perfect example of an artist living and breathing his art, as he uses his own body for social commentary on issues such as support for bisexuality, and gender equality. Passion is one thing Inder has in abundance, and once at a poetry event he recited his piece completely nude, with his penis stitched surgically to his naval. Featured in several of his performances is a pair of trousers with the back cut open, which he explains by saying, ‘Women are vulnerable from the front, men are vulnerable from the back.’
HG Loves: Commitment to your art is admirable in itself, and Inder’s commitment is down-right inspirational.
Learn more about Inder’s performances here.
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