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Artist Profile1
Chintan Upadhyay’s artistic exploration of manipulated realities
Chintan Upadhyay’s paintings and sculptures act as potent symbols of political memes and ubiquitous units of cultural information; they often appear like cyberblitzs - kind of cyber game objects - disinvested of material inertia. They open up the possibilities of new realms of reality even as they look to represent the utilitarian de-spiritualized universe.

This Mumbai-based controversial artist, invariably in the limelight for the subjects he opts for and the way he depicts them, is particularly known for his creations revolving around the theme of pop cultural symbolism and its influence in society. An established and well-recognised name in contemporary Indian art for over a decade, he has a knack of implementing different languages, according to the idiosyncratic demands and needs of his subject.

Chintan Upadhyay, born in Rajasthan, completed his B.F.A. and M.F.A. in Painting from the Faculty of Fine Arts, Baroda. For his much-debated ‘Tentua Dabaa Do’ series,’ taking up the issue of aborting female foeticide and abandoning infants, he had employed painting, video and installation. The surface of the canvas was worked on in numerous layers – those of paint, damaged by acid (indicating one of the methods employed in the female foeticide), and another layer of paint washed away by water (again prominent form of killing) featured among his unconventional methods of painting.

Regarding his choice of mediums, he had then commented: “I don’t believe in politics of medium. I don’t take up a medium just because the whole art world is following it. I keep myself open to understanding my work." He allows his subject matter to decide it.

His new series ‘Metastasis of Signs: A walk in the realm of manipulated realities’ comprises his most recent works – paintings and a composite installation of audio, video and metal. In this new series, the artist looks to explore a multiple of aspects and issues, such as the system of signs, scrambling of images in post-modern communication systems, building up of brands and the branding rebellion. He also brings into spotlight censorship and commoditization of politico-cultural symbolism.

Chintan Upadhyay has made use of sign language for the dumb and deaf as well as its derivatives in his signature style Smart Alec babies in a tangibly provoking way to point to their eventual, inevitable aberration into the pathological cultural misinterpretations as well as brutal indoctrinations. According to him, the sign systems especially in our times grossly tend to mis-communicate than leading to the truth. Now, they are deliberately developed for imparting hegemonic ideas. To put it in his words, we, as human beings have become not only the consumers of commodities but also the hopeless consumers of signs.

The ‘misinterpret’-able signs akin to cancerous cells settle in our intellectual and physical bodies, and undergo further multiplication. Whether ones terms it imperialist tactics of human management or simply the rule of corporatism, the artist’s idea is embodying this process- the political and socio-cultural deception of contemporary signs.

Hema Upadhyay, elaborating on her husband’s art practices and ideas, has once stated how several people have told her that Chintan’s work is way ahead of the times, adding she too believes that he is a very techno-savvy person and uses a lot of references from daily life. “Over the years, he has evolved and changed a lot of conventional attitudes regarding art,” she has mentioned.

Of course, he has received a fair bit of criticism as well. Sample a recent article ‘Starry, starry baby-maker’ by Kishore Singh in BusinessStandard, which mentions how his exhibitions draw on controversies that the artist articulates less surely, and which, despite his insistence, appear merely provocative instead of commentative. “I will not succumb to somebody else’s ideas about painting,” says Upadhyay, “about art”, as quoted in the article, which states, it’s a measure of perhaps his vaulting ambitions that he looks for broader rather than macro issues.

He is the founder of ‘Sandarbh (Reference)’, a non-profitable artists’ initiative that looks to support and enhance interaction between the rural and the urban people active in the field of art and culture. In his native village Banswara, he runs the artists programme and residency for exposing the artists to contemporary issues. The workshops, which he holds in rural areas, witness a keen participation from people from all walks of life. He hopes that more artists work for causes, which communicate the bitter realities of life. One may love him or hate him, but can’t ignore him- this is what only adds to the appeal of this artist.