A New Wave Of South Asian Creators Weaving Together Identity & Art

(L) Siddhesh Gautam; Upasana Agarwal (R)
(L) Siddhesh Gautam; Upasana Agarwal (R)(L) @bakeryprasad; @upasana_a (R)

While we’re all familiar with contemporary South Asian artists like M.F Husain and V.S Gaitonde, there is a new wave of South Asian artists on the scene. Art, culture, politics, and identity are closely wound with each other and these young emerging artists bring their identities to the fore through their works.

Each one is unique, modern, and eclectic, and I for one, can’t wait to see what they do with the immense talent they each have.

I. Upasana Agarwal
A non-binary artist whose identity influences their work, Upasana has been an illustrator for the past 7 years. Based out of Kolkata, their work expresses complex truths about the past, present, and future. Informed by the nostalgia and history of urban landscapes, Upasana has worked with organisations like UNESCO and the Asia Pacific Transgender Network. They have also illustrated an online zine on the intersection between disability and sexuality called ‘Skin Stories’.

Check them out here and check out their queer and trans art community space in Kolkata –– ‘Amra Odbuth’.

Image Courtesy: upasanaagarwal.com; @sophiabala

II. Sophia Balagamwala
Karachi-based Sophia Balagamwala is a multi-disciplinary artist whose work is a satirical take on how histories are written and disseminated. She takes inspiration from museum buildings, archives, current politics, and children’s books. Her recent animation ‘Whereabouts Unknown / Ata Pata Maloom Nahin’ has elements of ‘historical-nonsense’ and explores how the Indian subcontinent was shaped by the British Raj’s efforts to colonise art and monuments.
Check her out here.

III. Namrata Kumar
Srishti graduate Namrata Kumar has been a practising illustrator and painter since her graduation in 2010. A multi-disciplinary artist, her choice of weapons are acrylic paints for personal projects and digital design for commercial projects. Kumar recently collaborated with homegrown retail brand Cord to create a set of four prints which were featured in their spring-summer collection. Her paintings are gorgeously detailed and have notes of warmth and rusticity; showing the simplicity of a sedentary, honey-slow life. Her works are available for purchase here.

Image Courtesy: @namrata.kumar.art; @bakeryprasad

IV. Siddhesh Gautam
Siddhesh Gautam, who goes by Bakery Prasad on Instagram, is an up-and-coming visual storyteller, whose minimalist and post-modernist paintings are informed by his Dalit identity. His aim is to inspire a deeper connection between people with his work, as well as challenge preconceptions and misconceptions. Pune-based Siddesh’s works of political satire bring to light important topics like caste inequality and discrimination as well as shining a light on India’s contemporary freedom fighters like Dr Anand Teltumbde.
Check his work out here.

V. Shamsia Hassani
Afghanistan’s first female graffiti and street artist, Shamsia Hassani has been making waves as she depicts Afghan women as they face renewed Taliban threats. As a professor at Kabul University, she encourages and inspires Afghani women and artists to bring a new face to their resistance or as she describes it on her website, “...a face with power, ambitions, and willingness to achieve goals.” Today, despite the consistent danger, she continues to post her art to her Instagram page, ensuring that the plight of Afghani women remains visible and not forgotten.
Check her work out here.

Image Courtesy: @shamsiahassani; artnews.com

VI. Vasi Samudra Devi
Sri Lankan artist and trans-activist Vasi Samudra Devi has been a big part of the current political upheaval in Sri Lanka currently. Amid a national crisis, Devi helped to conceptualize and paint a mural on behalf of Gota Go Gama, a protest group in Colombo. She prefers working under an open sky and her paintings combine bright, flowing forms with the musculature of the human body to illustrate the vibrant fluidity of sexuality. Though not outwardly political, Devi says that they are political, because they are oriented toward creating a better future for their country.

Check her work out here.

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