Young, wild and whacked out

SIBILNG ART 'The Legend of Me' at 'EcoFriendly Hornification' by Manil Rohit Photo: K. Ananthan  

Loud purple, red, orange and peach rays emanate from a large speech bubble that reads ‘The Legend of Me’. ‘Me’ is a white stick figure with scraggly spikes cycling over a sea. Scattered across the acrylic-on-canvas are butterflies and sail boats along with ‘legends’ from Me’s life.

One proposes, “Will you witness my life sugarbunz?” Another muses “Too late to say I’m sorry” and a third sings Joan Osbourne’s “What if god was one of us, just a slob like one of us?” ‘Legend of Me’ is the first painting at ‘EcoFriendly Hornification’ which is brothers Manil and Rohit Gupta’s first collaborative series, curated by Nature Morte and showcased at Contemplate Art Gallery.

‘The Legend of Me’ is the perfect introduction to what follows: deeply introspective works but created with childlike block metallic and fluorescent colours, peppered with irreverence and dry humour. “There’s so much freedom of thought in childlike expression. It’s an unhindered, beautiful state of mind and this series recreates that. At the same time it speaks of the issues that we confront in our every-day lives,” says Manil in a telephone interview from Delhi.

There’s little empty space in Manil and Rohit’s works. Paintings such as ‘Elephant Juice’ and ‘Fragile Beauty’ are dense feasts for the eye featuring doodles, graffiti and speech bubbles.


“We paint in a spontaneous manner where each person can create anything on the canvas and the other could fill it in or modify it. Our works are multi-layered because we keep at one piece till we feel like we’ve drained all the possible juice out of that idea.”

Many of the elements they use are the recurrent motifs of isolated organs — eyes, mouths with tongues sticking out, teeth, hands — as well as twisted creepers, blazing suns, ladders and animals. “We use the sun because it has the positive energy to enliven the canvas and it’s also reminiscent of the standard school sun-rising-between-mountains painting. As for the mouth, it’s a common figure in most street art, usually used to articulate anger,” says Manil

Behind the pretty butterflies and sailboats unfold philosophy, latent sexual fantasies, private frustrations and dreams. A painting titled ‘Savita Bhabhi aur Anya Kahaaniyan’ has the pornographic cartoon character alongside symbols such as the swastika.

While the juxtaposition could raise eyebrows, for Manil it’s stating the obvious. “These paradoxes are reality. We are both good and evil. Sexuality coexists with religiosity and the irreverence comes from believing that god is there as much as he is not.”

‘Where Are You’ is possibly the series’ most blatantly sexual work with it’s psychedelic pink, red and yellow, unparliamentary language and bawdy puns. ‘Gold’ deals particularly with sexual repression, as exemplified by the pipelines running across the canvas with the words ‘Bottled up,’ 'Magnified’ ‘Explosion’ and ‘Fantasies’ thrown around.

Besides sexuality, as hinted by the ‘Hornification’ in the series’ title, the ‘EcoFriendly’ half speaks of universal problems such as global warming and environmental degradation. There are green creepers, vines and trees working their way across most paintings.

Green touch

“These ideas are important to us because even if humanity is eliminated from the planet, Nature will survive. The Earth doesn’t need us to get along. So the everlasting character of greenery appeals to us.”

Manil and Rohit present their discourse on prevalent issues through everyday slang and symbols from a cultural sphere familiar to urban youth. Most text is either in Hindi, Punjabi or Hindi transliterated into English. A painting titled ‘B.Y.O.B’ has a bright red crater down the canvass’ centre, bursting with white eyeballs. You’d have to have lived the hep life to know BYOB stands from ‘Bring your own booze’, often appended to invitations to wild evenings.

“We’re both young and we want to be thinking young so we talk about what the youth are talking about and draw from those influences.”

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Printable version | Oct 29, 2020 1:34:23 PM |

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