“Art is the weapon / against life as a symptom / defend yourself ” – My Chemical Romance
The referenced band may seem a bit misplaced but the sentiment holds true when we consider the real power that art and culture have over our lives. Art has always been used as a method to hold up a mirror to society, whether it is for introspection, protest or celebration. Artists have the very special ability to visually communicate thoughts, experiences and emotions we can’t put words to. More than that, what they manage to do is create a global community with, for lack of a better word, recognition. What art does is make you introspect and purge hidden realities which connect people from different spheres of life through shared empathy and kinship.
Shedding light on tabooed subjects, exploring the beauty of follies of our natural surroundings and just being human – these are just some of the incredible things that impactful artworks can trigger. Change can be made, or at least initiated, physically and more importantly, mentally when a platform for dialogue is created.
We’ve all come across a work of art that we’ve felt transformed by; being moved emotionally, make us question circumstances or just simply bawl our eyes out. We believe that art in all its forms – visual, performance, music, fashion and more – as a tool has triggered change and often made us turn our thoughts into actions. If nothing more, another person’s creative visualisations make us look at ourselves a little better, a little closer, a little differently; broadening our minds when it comes to how we perceived ourselves and others around us.
From an exploration of mental health issues to cheeky political satires – here are some incredible artworks by Indian artists that have truly left their marks.
I. Sonaksha Iyengar
Sonaksha Iyengar really stepped up during the 36 Days of Type Challenge on Instagram, with her beautifully illustrated dictionary of mental health. She felt that the alphabet was ideal for making people go back to the basics and start their learning from scratch, about a topic that is such a taboo in the country. It’s commendable the length she went to make her work authentic and helpful, she read psychology manuals ,met support groups and people battling mental illnesses to truly understand the issues she was illustrating. The work she put in shows through, her illustrations portray mental illness as something that is not ‘just a phase’ that one can ‘get over’ or can be used as a tool for ‘seeking attention’.
II. Opashona Ghosh
Ghosh’s collection titled ‘KIN’ is a wonderful exploration of gender normativity, sexual agency and female sexuality. Over a course of 10 months, she created this series of graphic illustrations that use erotica with an overarching and almost fantastical theme as a means to generate discourse. She strongly believed that there was a need of a new vocabulary of sexuality, and on a personal level, making the images allowed her to transform feelings of shame, fear and anger into something much more positive. Living in a sexually repressed society where we are told to be ashamed of our desires, Ghosh’s art comes as a breath of fresh air.
Explore her art through her Instagram.
III. Aditya Verma
Nudity is very often sexually charged, so Verma’s work which involves painting naked bodies in a platonic manner forces us to look at nudity beyond our narrow socially constructed views. In a society where queer and female sexuality is so guarded, he manages to paint and photograph people at their most vulnerable moments, and subjects have told him how they’ve found the very process of it therapeutic. Because of the incorrectly perceived nature of his work, many of Verma’s photographs have been taken off of Instagram, censored, or verbally condemned, but that hasn’t stopped him from continuing with his art.
IV. Sahil Shah
In an age where digital art has slowly gained strength as the most popular medium, Sahil Shah’s hand-drawn pieces deserve attention. Along with being inspired by elements of tattoo culture, American and traditional Japanese designs, the artist believes that a questioning of the system, a certain amount of institutional critique is a common strand running through all of his work. One of his most popular creations is the posters he crafted for Kulture Shop’s Propaganda Collection. The bold lines, bright colours and immense attention to detail truly set his work apart.
V. Shrishti Guptaroy
Shristi Guptaroy released a series of high-end fashion memes, illustrations that combined the aesthetics of fashion, and the common issues millennials face. They are quirky, flamboyant, and most definitely an accurate reflection of the reality we see all around us. She was inspired by the social media culture she saw as she scrolled through Instagram, and chose to do the illustrations out of sheer joy, but her work has also shed light on the inaccessibility of high fashion by combining two incredibly powerful tools, art and humour. Her art is very relatable and helps us take ourselves less seriously— just the way she wanted it.
Explore her work through her Instagram
Dali is one among a growing community of homegrown artists using comedy and comics to kickstart a chain reaction towards more inclusive conversations. In her comic ‘I Wanted To Be The Man Of The House’, she tackles the convention-drenched question of ‘realising you were gay’ with a wonderful air of humour and homeliness. Along with being the artist of other thought provoking work, Dali also talks about sex and sexuality in her blog ‘स se SEX’.
VII. Shweta Sharma
Inspired by her surreal dreams, Shweta Sharma’s outlandish illustrations appeal to the childlike imagination within all of us. With disproportionate faces, enormous eyes unintelligently gaping at you, and an almost-psychedelic colour palette; her artwork comes with a host of unrelated objects visually put together with a dash of unexpected humour. Reminiscent of the works of Dali, it’s a fusion of things you wouldn’t quite imagine. Her repertoire includes miniature match-box art in collaboration with traditional artisans in Jaipur, and her illustration entry to Indianama even got selected, and now features on Jai Mata Ji Tea Stall in Karol Bagh, Delhi.
VIII. Debangshu Moulik
Well known for his zines like Old T-shirt and bio-comic on Ambedkar, Moulike’s art presents a unique depth and maturity. His Instagram gives glimpses into his distinctly-styled portraits, of ordinary people going about their day, such as Parsi uncles in the Irani cafes spread across the city. Moulik is that artist you see, who carry around their sketchbooks ready to quickly pencil in their observations, turning mundane moments into beautiful pieces of art. He is also the illustrator behind the poster of Homegrown’s upcoming event, Mumbai Music Week.
IX. Sarah Modak
Sarah Modak is a versatile being, her work is inspired by space, science and technology, fashion, feminism and much more. Her work represent her intellectual musings on various things, such as her series Quanta, based on her understanding of concepts in quantum physics. My personal favourite is her reimagination of famous classical painting ‘The Creation Of Adam’ by Michelangelo. ‘The Creation Of Artificial Intelligence’ is influenced by her readings on artificial intelligence through various fiction and non-fiction work, and wonderfully merged with her love for Renaissance paintings. The commentary on the creation of her work also gives viewers an in-depth insight into the things she makes, making us appreciate its complexities and nuances even more.
X. Kaviya Ilango
In the age of carefully constructed images on social media, Kaviya Ilango’s art is strikingly real and lays it out bear. In a series of illustrations tagged #100 days of dirty laundry, she explores the insecurities of brown women, from body issues to mental health. She believes that topics that are taboo are the ones we need to be speaking up about in an unbiased manner to normalise them in society, and she does her part through her thought-provoking drawings. Powerful illustrations like the one below, aptly captioned ‘The trash piles that grow are the ones repeatedly dumped in’ are good reminders for us to stay attuned to our emotional and mental landscapes, and be mindful of who we’re becoming.
XI. Saksham Verma
Saksham Verma, inspired by Bollywood’s ideas of epic romance, created the ‘Stages Of Love: A VHS Series’. Through a set of 7 old Bollywood VHS covers Verma has highlighted the 7 agonising stages of being in love. From the initial butterflies of attraction to the sometimes explosive culmination he’s likened each stage to a popular Bollywood classic that he believes best embodies this emotional rollercoaster. Lamenting the loss of real human connection in the digital age, his work is a nostalgic exploration of the many facets of love in a bygone era.
XII. Abhilash Baddha
An engineer turned graphic designer, Baddha aims with every piece to speak a message to his viewers, he refuses to filter his work and believes that “Art should challenge the status quo and make people question everything.” His art is a commentary on various issues like surveillance and development, and also assimilates pop-culture elements seamlessly—check out his customisation of a Harry Potter novel or his reimagination of the famous Marilyn Monroe photograph. His witty political and satire-driven creations stand out from the crowd and deserve much attention.
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