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arts

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Gupta, Sunil (b. 1953)  
 
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As one looks longer at the series, one realizes that, although it is not tied together by consistent treatment of subject, it is unified by the soft, gentle mood pervading all the images. Such formal elements as soft lighting, muted colors, and slightly "out-of-focus" presentation contribute to the lyrical romanticism that pervades the series.

In interviews, Gupta has explained that he intended the title word "undetectable" to have multiple connotations. Most obviously, this word acknowledges the medical status of individuals who achieve virtually "undetectable" viral loads through medical treatment. However, this term also references the difficulty that Gupta and many other HIV-positive individuals have in detecting love.

Sponsor Message.

In a broader sense, Gupta also wants the title to highlight the reluctance of society to acknowledge the importance of love in all queer lives. Thus, he has expressed his concern that media discussion of the repeal of Section 377 encompassed sociology, law, and sex, but entirely ignored the emotional experiences of queer people. He has stated, "As people, our lives have a significant emotional aspect too, and the pictures brought that to the fore. So it's not only about sex between same-sex [couples]; the love between same-sex [couples] is never discussed."

The viewer's initial inability to perceive the theme replicates the difficult experience that Gupta has had in coming to terms with the reality and power of romantic love in his own life after his diagnosis with HIV. The recognition of the allure of romance that develops as one looks at the series enables the viewer to appreciate the importance of love in his or her own life.

Untitled no. 5 can be used to exemplify the impact of the series. In this photograph, we view from backside the reclining figure of a young man, as he gazes out at a tranquil grassy area, surrounded by houses. Because we see Gupta embracing the same man in another image, we can imagine he is someone with whom the artist is deeply involved. In the deceptively simple but deeply poetic No. 5, the viewer is privileged to assume the position of Gupta, as he gazes at this man with the eyes of love.

Conclusions

From the beginning of his career in the arts, Gupta repudiated the conventional representation of homosexuals as "perverted objects, fixated with the penis" and sought to depict gay men in relationship to their diverse life experiences. Although often autobiographical in origin, his pieces resonate with a wide range of viewers because they are structured in an open-ended fashion.

In the Trespass series, Homelands, and numerous other projects, he has explored the complex interactions of sexuality with many other personal and communal identity factors, including race, social class, geographic location, and health status. A desire to counter the dearth of images of minority gay men and also to promote queer culture in India motivated Gupta to create Exiles, a series which gave visibility to individuals who had too long seemed invisible.

Since his return to India in 2004, Gupta's art has evolved in new directions, and he has explored new themes. While most of his work prior to 2004 was focused primarily upon gay men, he has broadened his subject matter, and he has visualized the experiences of lesbians and transgender individuals in many projects. In A Time to Love and Imagining Childhood, he called attention to the lives of children living with HIV/AIDS, and he has begun a project on queer childhoods.

Gupta has retained his commitment to blurring cultural, racial, and sexual boundaries and to promoting political causes through subtle and poetic (rather than didactic) imagery. Thus, for example, he appropriated compositions devised by nineteenth-century British artists for the powerful and sensual images of South Asian queers in The New Pre-Raphaelites, which was intended to support the fight against Section 377.

In such works as Love and Light and Love Undetectable, Gupta celebrates romantic love with a lyrical tenderness not previously seen in his work.

An artist at the height of his powers, Gupta continues to evolve and to offer rich commentaries on a diverse range of queer experience.

Richard G. Mann

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   Related Entries
  
arts >> Overview:  African-American and African Diaspora Art

Gay and lesbian artists of the African Diaspora have recently begun to explore issues specific to gender and sexuality; often relying on self-portraiture, they address homophobia and racism as well as desire and longing.

arts >> Overview:  AIDS Activism in the Arts

In response to the AIDS epidemic, a number of activist groups, including Gran Fury and the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, have used art as a means to raise awareness about the epidemic.

arts >> Overview:  Canadian Art

Since the rise of the homosexual emancipation movement three decades ago, a handful of Canadian artists have confronted issues of gay and lesbian sexuality in their work.

arts >> Overview:  Contemporary Art

Contemporary Art, which designates new currents in art since 1970, is identified with postmodernism; during this period an art addressing gay and lesbian identity emerged.

arts >> Overview:  Documentary Film

The queer community has used documentary film to resurrect historical memory and to permit the marginalized to bear witness, as well as to build an image base that reflects our diversity and counters distorted representations.

social sciences >> Overview:  Hinduism

The dominant religion of modern India, Hinduism is no longer as tolerant of same-sex sexual relations as it seems to have been in the past.

social sciences >> Overview:  India

Indian thought towards same-sex eroticism and gender variance was more tolerant in the past than it is today.

arts >> Overview:  Indian Art

Not only is sexuality celebrated in Indian art, but many of India's gods also consider gender to be a fluid affair, sometimes manifesting as androgynes and sometimes switching gender altogether.

arts >> Overview:  Photography: Gay Male, Post-Stonewall

Post-Stonewall gay male photography merits recognition for its contribution to fine art, documentation, photo-journalism, and advertising, as well as erotica.

arts >> Overview:  Subjects of the Visual Arts: Nude Males

Throughout much of history, the nude male figure was virtually the only subject that could be used to articulate homoerotic desire in publicly displayed works of art, as well as those works of art intended for private "consumption."

arts >> Boffin, Tessa

British performance artist and photographer Tessa Boffin was the first British lesbian artist to produce work in response to the AIDS epidemic.

social sciences >> Clause (or Section) 28

In British law, Section 28 of the Local Government Act, enforced from 1988 until 2003, prohibited the promotion of homosexuality and teaching the acceptability of homosexuality as a "pretended family relationship".

arts >> Fani-Kayode, Rotimi

One of the most important black photographers of the late twentieth century, Rotimi Fani-Kayode explores important themes of racial and sexual identity.

arts >> Julien, Isaac

Filmmaker, artist, and cultural critic Isaac Julien is the most prominent member of a new wave of black artists and filmmakers involved in examining black and gay representation.

arts >> Khakhar, Bhupen

Contemporary Indian artist Bhupen Khakhar has earned an international reputation for paintings that are explicitly homosexual in theme, but that also address universal human needs.

literature >> Kureishi, Hanif

Although he does not employ the idiom of identity politics, Hanif Kureishi frequently gives gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals significant roles in his works.

arts >> Solomon, Simeon

Known for his association with the Pre-Raphaelites and the Aesthetic Movement, British artist Simeon Solomon created homoerotic works and suffered as a victim of late nineteenth-century English homophobia.


    Bibliography
   

Benllocch, Pep, and Pedro Vicente. "Turn the Page: Present and Future of Photography Magazines." PhotoResearcher (European Society for the History of Photography) 12 (2009): 51-56.

Boffin, Tessa, and Sunil Gupta, eds. Ecstatic Antibodies: Resisting the AIDS Mythology. London: Rivers Oram, 1990.

Bright, Deborah. The Passionate Camera: Photography and Bodies of Desire. London: Routledge, 1998.

Buckley, Bernadette. "Artist Interview: Sunil Gupta." John Hansard Gallery, University of Southampton (April 2003): http://www.soton.ac.uk/~hansard/exhibition/archive/2003/sunil_gupta/index1.html

Carver, Antonia. "Getting Them Between the Eyes: An Interview with Sunil Gupta." Art AsiaPacific 16 (1997): 64-69.

Clark, Robert. "Sunil Gupta." Guardian Unlimited (London) (February 3, 2004): http://arts.guardian.co.uk/reviews/story/0,,1137441,00.html

Cotter, Holland. "Sunil Gupta: From Here to Eternity." New York Times (January 7, 2000): E, part 2, 43.

Cooper, Emmanuel. The Sexual Perspective: Homosexuality and Art in the Last 100 Years in the West. 2nd ed. London: Routledge, 1994.

Dhote, Anyana. "Sunil Gupta's Photography." Pink Pages: India's National Gay and Lesbian Magazine. No. 3 (February 2010): 54-58.

"Exploring Post-Modern Identity." The Hindu (April 27, 2004): 1.

Forest, Black. "The New Pre-Raphaelites (Grovesnor's Gallery)." TheMostCake (London, January 18, 2010): http://themostcake.co.uk/culture/tmc-reviews…-the-new-pre-raphaelites-grosvenor-gallery/#more-5442

Gross, J. "Sunil Gupta's 'Tilonia' at the Commonwealth Institute, London." British Journal of Photography 130 (June 10, 1983): 601-02.

Gupta, Sunil. Disrupted Borders: An Intervention in Definitions of Borders. London: Rivers Oram, 1993.

_____. An Economy of Signs: Contemporary Indian Photography. London: Rivers Oram, 1990.

_____. "India Postcard, or Why I Make Work in a Racist, Homophobic Society." Queer Looks: Perspectives on Lesbian and Gay Film and Video. Martha Gever, John Greyson, and Prathiba Parmar, eds. London: Routledge, 1993. 240-47.

_____. "Lovers Ten Years On/Portraits of Gay Men." Creative Camera 253 (January 1986): 12-13.

_____. Monograph. London: Autograph, 1998.

_____. Pictures from Here. London: Autograph, 2003.

_____. "Sunil Gupta." (2006): http://www.sunilgupta.net/

_____. Trespass 1. Vancouver, B.C.: Contemporary Art Gallery, 1993.

_____. Wish You Were Here: Memories of a Gay Life. Delhi: Yoda Press, 2008.

Hall, Stuart, and Mark Sealy. Different: A Historical Context. London: Phaidon, 2001.

Kaindl, Kurt. "At the Crossroads." Creative Camera 313 (December 1991/January 1992): 18-23.

Keen, Melanie. "Sunil Gupta." Creative Camera 339 (April/May 1996): 39.

Papastergiadis, Nikos. "Imagining a New Internationalism." Creative Camera 327 (April/May 1994): 18-23.

Singh, Radhika. "Sunil Gupta: Interview." Exposure 41: 1 (Spring 2008): 14-25.

Still, Judith. "What Is a Man? Looking at the Traces of Men's Sexuality, Race and Class in the Work of Some Contemporary Photographers." Paragraph 26.1-2 (March-July 2003): 119-133.

"Sunil Gupta." Meet the Artists. National Gallery of Canada. (January 13, 2006): http://gallery.ca/cybermuse/showcases/meet/artist_e.jsp?artistid=27876

 

    Citation Information
         
    Author: Mann, Richard G.  
    Entry Title: Gupta, Sunil  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
 
    Publication Date: 2007  
    Date Last Updated September 18, 2011  
    Web Address www.glbtq.com/arts/gupta_sunil.html  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
 
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    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2007 glbtq, Inc.  
 

 

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