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Gupta, Sunil (b. 1953)  
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In the eight panels composing Trespass I, Gupta incorporated a wide variety of images, including historical photographs of Nazi Germany; views of war monuments, art galleries, and other buildings in contemporary Germany; self-portraits (clothed and nude), as well as portraits of his British partner; photographs of unidentified South Asians; and advertisements. The visually provocative combination of images suggests multiple interactions among diverse cultural, economic, and historical referents. Furthermore, boundaries between the personal and political are blurred through the juxtaposition of images of Gupta and his partner with indications of Nazi authority and modern capitalism.

The second installment of the series, Trespass 2, was created in 1993, in response to a commission from NGBK, Berlin (Neue Gesellschaft für Bildende, New Society for Pictorial Arts) for an exhibition entitled They Call It Love. The ten panels explore how Gupta's partnership with one man was affected, and ultimately destroyed, by a third man, who initially came into their household simply to remodel the kitchen (seen as background of many of the personal photographs in the series).

Large portraits of Gupta (mostly nude), as well as separate photographs of his long-term partner and the third man emphasize the personal dimensions of the series, although they are not organized in terms of a sequential narrative. By juxtaposing these portraits with a wide range of pre-existing images--color photos of food, Mogul miniatures, Indian billboards, a photograph of his grandfather's army regiment, newspaper headlines, soft gay porn--Gupta eloquently reveals how the supposedly personal space of the home can become a battleground for diverse racial and cultural perspectives.

Commissioned by Essex County Council and Focal Point Gallery, Southend, Trespass 3 (1995) interpreted Essex as a point of entry for foreigners into the UK and investigated how the lives of Asians in the UK have been shaped by military and economic authorities.

In this series, Gupta largely downplayed the sexual and obviously personal elements, with some notable exceptions. Approximately midway through the series, he inserted a portrait of himself, to mark his recent diagnosis as HIV-positive. In addition, in another panel, he provocatively combined photographs of the following: an open public space with three empty lawn chairs (with a train station visible in the distance), a "cottage" (British gay slang for a public men's room used for cruising), and a Body Positive rally.

From Here to Eternity and Homelands

Distressed by his diagnosis as HIV-positive in 1995, Gupta at first tried to avoid dealing with the implications of his medical condition, and he fell into a creative slump once he became ill. However, by 1999, he had completed From Here to Eternity, a series of six mural-sized diptychs about his life as an HIV-positive gay man living in South London. For this project, he returned to his photographic roots by using "traditional" positive prints, which he personally developed from negatives in the darkroom.

On left side of each diptych is a self-portrait, taken during a period of illness. One of the portraits, Shroud, in which Gupta's body is wrapped in a curtain, obviously alludes to the possibility of death, and two show him undergoing medical treatments. However, the three others do not directly depict illness; these include a notably tender image of the artist embracing his dog (Babe). On the right side of each diptych is an exterior view of a gay club, seen in the light of day. Each of the diptych combinations reveals the artist's subtle, ironic humor in the face of illness. For instance, Hoist is balanced by a photo of the artist raising his camera to take a shot of himself in the mirror. With its implications of military attack, The Fort is appropriately paired with Blood, showing the artist having blood samples taken in the hospital.

Begun in 2000 and completed in 2003, Homelands consists of fifteen mural-size diptychs, which collectively present an intellectually and psychologically complex interpretation of his life as an HIV-positive man. Recognizing that he carries the virus inside himself, he conceived the series as a "personal travelogue," composed of "landscapes in which, if you like, the HIV is traveling," as Gupta explained in an interview with Bernadette Buckley in 2003. For this project, he chose a variety of locations, which had personal significance for him, in India, Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom.

He did not attempt to organize the series into rigid narrative, and he paired images in diptychs for various reasons. For instance, Hunida Pamar, Uttar Pradesh and Bar Harbor, Maine both depict landscapes that have been deeply eroded over time. However, the combination of Hunida Pamar, Uttar Pradesh / Chesapeake Bay, Maryland was determined intuitively, partly on aesthetic grounds. A pastoral view, Mundia Pamar depicts a meadow on property that Gupta inherited in northern India, with a cow in the foreground and a calf barely visible in the distance. In contrast, Chesapeake Bay presents a backside nude view of the artist in a hotel room. The light entering this rather ordinary space infuses this photograph with the same idyllic mood as the landscape.

The diptych Ajmer, Rajasthan / Great Yarmouth, Nova Scotia reveals the humor and autobiographical concerns that often are present in Gupta's work. For Ajmer, Gupta photographed the fading outdoor wall ad for a medical potion because he was intrigued by these super-muscular men, rare in Indian culture. The Dairy Queen, recorded in Great Yarmouth, represents a distinctly North American manifestation of consumer culture. Actually, the Dairy Queen incorporates a variety of personal references for Gupta, who became addicted to the brand of frozen custard while living in Canada. In accord with the American gay slang definition of "dairy queen" as a black gay man attracted to white men, Gupta also identified the subject with himself.

Return to India

In 2004, at the opening of a retrospective exhibition of his work, Pictures from Here, at the India Habitat Centre, New Delhi, Gupta encountered a beautiful Indian man, with whom he immediately fell in love.

In several interviews, Gupta has emphasized the profound significance of his relationship with Shankar, the first man with whom he had become deeply involved after his diagnosis with HIV in 1995.

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