Vivek Vilasini's works explore common Indian icons at various levels

Vivek Vilasini's ‘Between One Shore and Several Others', opened recently at Gallery Sumukha. The exhibition is part of a highly-acclaimed series, and has been shown in New Delhi and Bangalore.

Comprising five works, the underlying theme is that of cultural identities, and how different influences impact them.

One example is ‘Just What Is It', based on an iconic Richard Hamilton collage from 1965. In the collage, key elements of Hamilton's original are digitally replaced by elements of Indian traditional and pop culture, and the juxtaposition is arresting. The result is a curious mix that is very Indian and yet unabashedly a reworked foreign idea.

Similarly, ‘The Three Graces' is the artist's take on Botticelli's ‘The Three Muses', which featured three scantily-clad women in a circle, holding hands. The artist's version here features three women in the same poses, but clad in burkhas instead. The work is simple but thoughtful. Botticelli's women were based on Zeus' three daughters and represented beauty, charm and joy.

These pieces exuberate trans-cultural influences, and are complemented by other pieces which seem to ask what it means to be Indian.

‘Gandhi Street' is a picture of a side alley with a statue of Gandhi in the foreground. There's a Gandhi Street or its equivalent nearly everywhere in India, and the non-distinct setting could be anywhere in the country. With motorcycles and a fancy gate, we wonder if this is the artist's take on a quintessential Indian street.

Equally intriguing is ‘The Temple', which at first glance looks like an ordinary temple, but on closer observation reveals another world altogether. Hidden within the cracks and ‘free space' are scenes and people from every-day Indian life. Ranging from celebrities such as Amitabh Bachchan, Kamal Haasan and historical figures such as Gandhi, to men and women of humble origin, the inclusions separate normal life from the mundane and the sacred.

The collection is eclectic and experimental, cheeky and thoughtful. A playful provocation of cultural identity and its composites, the exhibition is on till July 16, at Gallery Sumukha, 187, St. Mary's Road, Alwarpet (between 10.30 a.m. and 6.00 p.m. daily.)