About the Exhibition
Art has always mirrored society, and artists, since time immemorial, have been a mouthpiece of our collective conscience. Me, You, and the World brings together the diverse voices of 3 contemporary Indian artists, who traverse life as individual observers in a pluralistic world. Nikheel Aphale, Ashu Gupta and Gurmeet Marwah, each have a distinct artistic language, completely different from one another. Yet, the common message they deliver through their work, emphasizes an appreciation for individuality, respect for diversity, and a reminder, to constantly strive to inculcate the best of human qualities.
Captivating the viewers with their distinct sensibilities, Nikheel, Ashu, and Gurmeet compel us to reflect on the banality as well as the wonder of our lives, the contradictions and consequences of our choices, and the meaning of our singular existence in an expansive world. Each artist uses a metaphor to dwell upon the human experience – Nikheel Aphale, a calligrapher compares humanity to the “varnamala” - the alphabet - of the Devanagari script, Ashu Gupta, a doodler, draws parallels between the “matki”- earthen pot - and humans, and Gurmeet Marwah, a painter and printmaker, uses satirical animals and objects to make us reflect on human actions and behaviour.
Through this exhibition, we explore varied aspects of the relationship we have with ourselves and our societal circle. We take the viewer on a journey where one can pause and reflect on our existence as individuals, engaged in the larger webs of family, society, culture, and our one common world.
Nikheel Aphale is a calligrapher and artist who considers the ancient Indian Devanagari script to be his muse. Unexplored as an artform, he wants to showcase its potential internationally. Nikheel’s artworks are inspired by the “varnamala” or alphabet of this script, in which his mother-tongue, Marathi, as well as Hindi and several other languages, are written. Exposed to its sounds and visuals since birth, he has a deep and comforting bond with the Devanagari script. Nikheel draws parallels between the constitution of letters in the script and human beings, through the prism of diversity, coexistence, and togetherness. His works celebrate the ideals of unity, humanity, and oneness, using letters as a metaphor.
Nikheel endeavours to take calligraphy beyond its conventional meaning of “the art of beautiful handwriting”. He gives letter forms his own expression and voice. Peeling the layers of convention, he still encompasses the concepts of calligraphy in his work, but with imperfect, yet beautiful, graphical, never-seen forms. Nikheel focuses on many elements all at once during the creation process - the hand, mind, posture, viscosity of ink, and tactility of surface; all this, to achieve a single stroke. Dipping the kalam or brush in the ink pot and drawing a stroke with conscious judgment, yet being unable to predict the reaction of the ink with the paper – is an exhilarating feeling. And the uncertainty, surprise, risk, or happy accident that ensues, creates within him a spiritual experience.
I feel we humans can learn so much by observing the letters of the Devanagari script. Every letter has an individual personality, with a distinct sound, shape, and weight. Despite these differences, they are all part of a cohesive system, working together harmoniously. There are no upper-case and lower-case letters, no hierarchy or discrimination. And the script allows one to write exactly how a word is spoken, reflecting a certain honesty and purity of expression.
Ashu Gupta, a pen and ink artist with a fondness for doodling, leans on the humble matki (earthen pot made of mud), to dwell upon various facets of human life, such as society, behaviour, feelings, and perspective. Dwelling upon varied thoughts and emotions, Ashu emphasizes simplicity and minimalism as the most endearing qualities in humans – an idea supported not just through her own artistic language, but also through her chosen metaphor, the matki - a shining example of the very same ideals.
Ashu’s art is painstakingly detailed yet manages to exude a meditative calmness. She uses the circle or some other repetitive pattern as the building block of each work. Every form, when viewed up close, exposes the innumerable repetitive patterns that collectively give rise to the familiar in her work. Her subjects are always emphasized, with nothing to distract from the understated beauty of her art. Ashu likens the precise creative process of her art practice to that of a pilgrimage, where effort and routine combine to create a deeply meditative and transcendental state of mind.
There are many similarities between the matki and humans. At the end of their lives, both return to Mother Earth. The matki looks so simple from the outside, but we can’t judge the matki by its external appearance; we have to appreciate the true value that lies within. The same goes with humans; we have to nurture who we are within, and not judge ourselves or others based on outward appearance.
Gurmeet Marwah uses satire to comment on human behaviour, through art that is equal parts heartwarming and thought provoking. His work is based on narratives at two levels - the personal and the societal. Gurmeet uses animals and objects as poignant symbols as well as crucibles of emotive content. His artworks depict examples of human behaviour and interactions as satire, wherein the animals and objects act as metaphors. For instance, Gandhiji makes an appearance in many works, highlighting how, while people use his image everywhere, they fail to emulate his simplicity or follow the values for which the great man stood. The donkey represents obstinacy against odds, while the owl is used to symbolize legacy and a sense of associated nostalgia. Desire is another fundamental aspect of Gurmeet’s work that has many forms, such as the explosion and the entrapment of the heart.
While his artworks usually have an earthy colour palette, a pop of colour, usually achieved with red, make the central idea in Gurmeet’s works even more prominent. The genius of Gurmeet’s art lies in how serious contemplations of the human experience are dealt with using a sense of humour and a certain lightness. Gurmeet compels us to ask ourselves difficult questions, but with art that is very easy on the eye.
While I paint common feelings or thoughts, my visual vocabulary is quite different and uncommon. I try to keep everything very simple, but there is a lot of complexity and conflict inside me. In a way, the satire in my work serves to resolve my inner conflicts. The sarcastic expressions in my work have their origin in deeply felt emotions.