At a time where India is divided between casteist noise and environmental panic, one man takes to his art to make a comment. The term “a picture is worth a thousand words” is perfect to describe Siddhesh Gautam’s work. Working with issues ranging from the Kashmir conflict, to corrupt politicians, to the plight of construction workers, to the burning issue of Mother Earth; Gautam covers it all.
Take, for instance, his artwork titled “Our Leader is Grand”.
Gautam is doing something fantastic here: he’s made the politician adorn a Nehru cap, clasp his hands in a gentle namaste, given him a generous smile and yet we immediately recognize the comment of corruption that Gautam is trying to make. How does he do it?
By leaving clues all over the art that play on our subconscious. The notes of bribery sticking out of the politician’s pocket, the overwhelming difference in the size of the local people compared to the gargantuan politician, the fact that the sun is setting not rising.
Another one titled “Kashmiri Topi” is the portrait of the hour. The orange-tone background in line with the party’s saffron flags.
The highlight of the painting is Amit Shah’s cap that is distinctly shaped like Kashmir. Notice the patchwork on the cap- the innuendo of something once torn apart that is now stitched.
When asked to comment on his work, Gautam said “While minimalism and post-modernist thought are the main influence of my work. It is based on in-depth research on the subject. I aim to create much more than superficially beautiful objects. My work is meant to challenge your preconceptions, question the evil, expand your mind, honor the sacred, and evoke feelings of dissent, freedom, and deep spiritual connection.”
Siddhesh Gautam’s work unabashedly captures the real India. The turbulent timing of history we find ourselves to be a part of. Do you not see yourself in these images? The men-folk with taped mouths involved in a one-way conversation with the prime minister. The group of charged, ambitious protestors trying to make environmental good happen in the face of evil. The simpletons carrying on with their life under the overwhelming presence of a corrupt politician.
Gautam’s art is honest, unfiltered and courageous. Take for instance, the one showcasing a famous TV reporter chasing a carrot that’s stuck to his own back. The endless chase, a hopeless cause, an unnecessarily adamant man. With a total of three elements – a carrot, a man and a mic – Gautam paints the entire picture (literally and metaphorically) of the current state of the Indian Media. It takes more of a genius to say things in fewer strides than it does to go on and on.
Much to our delight, Gautam peaks his unabashedness, with the work titled “Man vs. Child”.
A chiding twist on the famous show, Man Vs. Wild. This shows our prime minister hold up a baby resembling Rahul Gandhi. The media is flooded with verbal altercations between the two. The artwork pokes fun at the state of Indian politics by putting it in context of a widely recognized show.
Finally, let’s look at his take on the infamous “We can do it!” poster that came out during the world war. We see a distinctly Indian face; sari-clad, bindi-adorned with glass bangles encircling a flexed arm. The direct gaze of the woman paired with her head-strong expression presents a sense of gumption.
When asked what he aimed to do, Gautam said he wanted to “encourage people to live deeply, love fearlessly, and to appreciate this heavenly place called Earth as global citizens.”
India is at a crucial time where freedom of expression is being curtailed. The strength of our intolerance towards this curtailment will determine the future of generations to come. Which is exactly why individuals like Siddhesh Gautam are important contributors to our communities. They embolden the rest of us who may not be skilled enough to pick up a brush and paint our thoughts but are burning with the desire to condemn wrong-doing. Art has been a medium for several revolutionaries and in our block, Siddhesh Gautam is paving the path.
Artworks by Siddhesh Gautam.
Text by Tanmayee Thakur.