Read / Watch / Listen
< Back to Read / Watch / Listen

Sunil Gupta commission in Spectrosynthesis II

POSTED: 21 January 2019

The New Pre-Raphaelites - an Autograph commission - will feature in the largest-ever LGBT Asian contemporary art exhibition

In 2008, Autograph commissioned Sunil Gupta to create new work in response to the human rights issues surrounding Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. This law, instituted by the British in 1660, criminalised homosexuality, and led to the arbitrary arrest and exploitation of gay, bisexual and transsexual Indians. Section 377 was not overturned until 2018. 

Sunil produced a series of photographs The New Pre-Raphaelites for the commission. Radhika Singh writes of this work in his text Pre-Raphaelites Re-Visited: Narratives of a Gay Life:

Sunil Gupta’s series of 10 images deals with the ‘truths’ of posturing gay couples, single men and women, and families posing romantically between the cutting edge of desire and passion.

An unwieldy combination of symbolism and realism, the photographs are filled with the intense luminosity of mythology while concentrating on models (real people) who occupy the spaces of criminal intent within the lines of Section 377. Exotically coloured backdrops highlight brilliant costumes, and sometimes nude bodies with a precise devotion to detail that is magnetic.

By his own admission, Sunil has evolved into working with the entire gender canvas to include those other protagonists of this struggle. The women portrayed in this series are living in the shadows of the gay movement, free of the criminality of sodomy, but hunted down by society and even burnt alive by their families who would rather bury them than face ostracism."

Works from The New Pre-Raphaelites will feature in Spectrosynthesis II - Exposure of Tolerance: LGBTQ in Southeast Asia at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre in November 2019. Organised by the Sunpride Foundation, the exhibition is the largest-ever survey of regional contemporary art that explores lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and queer creative history in Southeast Asia and beyond. More than 50 artists are included in the show.

Supporting the creation of new work is an important facet of Autograph's mission, and we are proud to see Sunil's powerful photographs included in 
Spectrosynthesis II

About the artist

Sunil Gupta was born in New Delhi, India in 1953 and moved to Montreal with his family in the late 1960s, where his interest in photography was stimulated. In the late 1970s, he lived in New York, where he studied photography at the New School for Social Research under Lisette Model. Gutpa then moved to London, England, to continue his studies at the Royal College of Art.

He has exhibited widely all over the world and published several books, including Queer (Vadehra Art Gallery/Prestel 2011) and Wish You Were Here (Yoda Press, New Delhi 2008). He now works as a photographer, writer and curator out of London and Delhi, seeking to promote a greater understanding of questions regarding representation, sexuality, access and cultural differences.

Images, from the top 1) Sunil Gupta, Untitled #2, from The New Pre-Raphaelites, 2008. 2) Sunil Gupta, Untitled #6, from The New Pre-Raphaelites, 2008