Review by Georgina Maddox
February 15, 2015


Q: The Lighthouse
Thukral & Tagra
January 18-March 28, 2015
Nature Morte, New Delhi

The soft toy-like statuette of a sardarji, covered in white toweling material and clutching a bunch of black balloons is the perfect foil for the beefy wrestlers whose contact sport is considered the epitome of masculinity in many regions around India. The vintage radio juxtaposed against contemporary images of a switchboard, a string of fairy lights and bright floral wallpaper, becomes an instant time capsule into which a viewer might escape: Artistic duo Jiten Thukral & Sumir Tagra’s latest offering is replete with many examples of this kind of visual disjuncture.

Their new works currently displayed at Nature Morte, near Siri Fort Auditorium in central south Delhi, is titled “Q: The Lighthouseand it picks up from where they left off with their filmic exploits. In 2013, T&T created a stir with their live installation and short film entitled “Q” that was displayed at Famous Studios in Mumbai—it caused much intrigue among the art cognoscenti and the film fraternity alike.  Their brand of "Punjabi Baroque", that embraces elements of design and advertising while commenting on popular culture, has raised the intrigue of art audience over the last few years.

For their latest offering the duo revisit this medium of short films, clubbing it with their ongoing fascination for pop culture. In this series the wrestlers are captured in their akhara (a traditional Indian wrestling club), against the backdrop of artwork by the mischievous duo who like to pop the bubble of middle class Indian values.  

The artists’ paintings work as the backdrop of the wrestling match, creating a visual rupture while underscoring themes of competition, longing, community, and growing-up.  The exhibition also features the second scene of the film “Q” that is contextualized by the new paintings and sculptures featured in the show.

Large ‘stone wings’, that appear to be a relic from an old temple site, sit right next to delicate lampshades that could have been sourced from a typical Punjabi household, this is flanked by two canvases featuring the afore mentioned vintage radio and a typical T & T canvas showcasing floating topiary against a sky-blue backdrop.

“Our intention is to overturn and examine middle-class Indian values through icons such as the dream home, festive decorations, consumer affluence, and fantasy escapism,” say the artists in their joint statement.

The artists have been prominent on the Delhi art scene since 2003. Dressed in dapper suits and over-the-top Punjabi bling, to fit their characters, Thukral & Tagra have been working collaboratively in a wide variety of media, from paintings and sculpture to installation and video. Their works are characterized by a marked graphic approach that is often used in advertising and product design, interiors and fashion. The two come from varied back-grounds, one having studied in Chandigarph while the other in Delhi, but the two share the same Northern roots and aesthetics which they draw from constantly.

The crossover artists are known to blur the lines between fine art and popular culture, product placement and exhibition design, artistic inspiration and media hype. “Our works often comment on the globalization of consumer culture and the repercussions of this as it is being experienced in India today,” say the duo. While their work is both playful and humorous, it is characterized by a solicitous inquiry into the nature of Indian identity as it is articulated by Indians themselves and projected back on to India by the rest of the world.? 

Dominus Aeris, lux 1