- Sanjay Theodore
- Amritsar No.1
- Copper, silver leaf, polyurethane, paper, on framed canvasboard
- 615 (h) x 510mm (w)
On 22nd December 2012, thousands of young women, joined by men, gathered at India Gate, New Delhi- India’s political nerve centre, to demonstrate their anger over the case of a young female medical student who was violently gang raped and left for dead in Delhi, and over the inability of the police and law makers to ensure the safety and security of women within a nation’s own capitol (The protests culminated in the public being lathi-charged, water-cannoned and tear-gassed which ironically spurred live instances of policemen manhandling and beating young female protesters most of whom were college students themselves). These unprecedented protests galvanized India’s youth - who largely refrain from politicking, into voicing their demand for social change, reclaiming their urban, social and political spaces which are so hostile to its female citizens, whose ire has finally caught up with an inherent patriarchy, sexism and sexual repression. As these events unfolded, Indian diaspora artist Sanjay Theodore relocates with his family from New Zealand to India and adjusts his oeuvre on a familiar country to find inexplicable incongruities within a rapidly changing landscape. With keen subtlety, Theodore presents a new body of photographic images. Free from any digital manipulation, these “found” compositions are the very antithesis of a country so colourfully advertized by India’s tourism board or the typical National Geographic-esque photographs of slum children, pre-independence architecture, naked ascetics and elephants. Instead the artist proposes sculptures of a headless Superman bearing a plane not quite proportionate to his own body, placed next to a tiger, an ornamental elephant and a Buddha which scream a riotious and unintentional farce. To delve into the meaning of the incidental comedic image is possibly a fool’s errand, but there is an intrinsic glee in interpreting Super Man as an incapable symbol of the “West”, no doubt beheaded by the dominant “Asian” symbols- the mighty elephant, the jolly fat Buddha and the fierce tiger. Through these ‘readymade’ images, the official toursim tag line “!ncredible India” subverts to “!ncredulous” in the brink of context. The recent aforementioned events also appropriate the hoarding advertising male underwear. In light of serious protests against violent and often sexually motivated crimes against women, the cool, laconic, definitive male in the image begins to look sinitster, his outward gaze as though scanning for prey. Or does the image offer a contrary proposition? In Lucknow, former victims of sexual abuse have come together to form the “Red Brigade”. Due to the inaction of local police and government authorities, these 15 young vigilantes, the oldest, also the leader, being only 25 years of age, fight for equality and deal with “Road-side Romeos” with reason or otherwise. How might they perceive such an image? Still on the subject of briefs, journalist Nisha Susan1 offers the instance of how a group of five young men, all Bangalore-based lawyers in their twenties, were asked if they pick their own underwear. Four were left wondering why their mothers still pick their boxers and briefs. Is this spectacular speciman of an Indian male on the hoarding defying sterotype and offering up his masculinity to be mocked? Theodore’s photographic series though seemingly simplistic, bellie a country of aspirations, of a nation in ferment which “grows at night”2. As the government sleeps, the common man’s ingenuity comes to play, doing whatever it takes to accomplish personal objectives. The photograph of the (pressumably) functioning satellite dish with, inexplicably, a bucket on its antena suggests as much. For millions of new young Indians, self- confident and enterpreneural, have risen in recent years are now part of the upwardly mobile, post-reform internet generation who want more. Not content with party politics they find no contendors to vote for, while politicians continue to patronizingly look upon the common man as “ignorant” and “poor” whom they attempt to bribe during election time. Villages are experimenting with solar power and wind energy, where the poorest households are beginning to benefit while other social enterprises in remote towns ensure that the girl child is educated and treated with equality thereby empowering several communities to be self sufficient. Through humourous images of mute horses, stagnant military jets and warships and incredulous dinosaurs, Sanjay Theodore offers an alternate narrative of a country with sharp but colourful contrasts. In a sense this is still the land of Maharajas, Palaces and elephants but look closely; the palaces are five star hotels where the outfitted “Maharaja” is your personal butler, and the elephants serve as grand entries for a billionaire’s daughter’s wedding. And the naked ascetics? They’re teaching you yoga on your TV-set.
- 1. Nisha Susan “Why Indian Men Are Still Boys”, Telehka Magazine, Issue 30, Volume 6, August 1, 2009 http://tehelka.com/why-indian-men-are-stillboys/
- 2. Economic commentator and author Gurcharan Das uses the phrase “India grows at night while the government sleeps” to illustrate with comparative analyses how one Indian city grows rapidly in the absence of political governance while another falls back due to the trappings of bureaucracy and red tape; where the private sector overtakes the public interms of substantial economic growth.
Cover: Superman and Friends, photograph, 2013 featured in ARTZONE Issue No. 49 2013
A 7 : 1 3 PAINTINGS
All works are created this year 2013 using premium Mussini Schmincke oil paint and mediums on Belgium linen over solid wood stretchers. Each work has been signed ‘HEMIO 2013’, Hemio is James Ormsby.
The exhibition will run from the 5th of April until Saturday the 27th
and will be available to view online at paulnache.com.
Paul Nache Gallery
Upstairs 89 Grey Street
Gisborne 4010 New Zealand
Wed-Fri 10-5, Sat 10-2
+64 6 867 9721
- James Ormsby
- He piko He taniwha - Part I (top diptych)
- Te Ao Mārama: The Natural World - Part II (bottom diptych)
- Mussini Schmincke oil paint and mediums on Belgium linen over solid wood stretchers.
- 4800 (h) x 2000mm (w)
- Price on application