Art meets rap: This exhibition combines political anxieties in India with contemporary pop culture
Sumit Roy, a 25-year-old visual artist and rapper based out of Delhi, hopes to match your furniture, while subtly critiquing the absurdities of life and art.
‘I Hope to Match Your Furniture’, a solo exhibition by Roy, blends painting and typography with the subversive, trans-continental form of hip hop to articulate contemporary political anxieties in India.
Through his show, which is being held at Delhi’s India Habitat Centre till January 18, Roy hopes to bring together disparate strands of thought. His aim is to design a détente between the distinct and discordant threads of fine art and rap - Indian and Western aesthetic sensibilities.
An alumnus of Maharaja Sayajirao University Baroda, Roy’s work is boldly inspired by global, mainstream popular culture. The exhibition preview on January 13 kicked off with rap performances by Roy, with subtle undertones of political commentary on the ‘current broken state of our democracy’.
“Ab baari humari, ab baari humari, ab baari humari, humari hai // Yeh meri kahani ke panne bhi rangon se bhaari hain // Ghotaale dekho kaise saare yeh bhaari sarkaari hain // Galti yeh meri tumhari, ab baari humari hai”
The white gallery space is often perceived as cold and unwelcoming while rap music is thought to be a lower art form, emerging from the streets.
Roy says he borrows references from the political and societal sub-contexts and combines it with contemporary pop culture. “My art is open-ended and open to interpretation. I want to keep it as simple as possible. You won’t need a manual to understand my art. My process is my journey.”
“Our democracy is broken and there is no single person who can fix it. Politicians are like actors on a broken stage that come, perform and walk away. They all fall flat on their faces while the audience laughs at them, makes memes about them. We want to ask you to go onto that stage and see those broken planks,” say Meghnad, Vikram, Shibesh, the writers of ‘Consti-tuition’, a web show by Newslaundry.
Roy home-schooled himself design and his work sits at the intersection of traditional art practices and contemporary Indian visual language. He plays with the audience’s perception, presenting images that are oil and acrylic created using alternative print techniques but offer the illusion of being serigraphs (a printing technique where a mesh is used to transfer ink onto a substrate).
Arjun Sagar Gupta, the founder of The Piano Man - a popular Jazz club in Delhi, who has seen Roy perform at his club says, “When Sumit had started off... and was asked to use the microphone during a jam session, no one in the club expected what they’d be getting. Sumit had a lot of verses! What followed was the slow discovery of an immense and immensely humble talent. From incredible art to a beautiful understanding of rap culture, Sumit is an artist to watch, and we’re all eagerly watching,” says
Roy hopes for his music to disrupt and disturb the current status quo. “I hope to present a point that is, subtle but also catalysing for an audience that would not traditionally consume the kind of art I am presenting,” he says.
The artist’s oeuvre is simultaneously as creative as it is distortive. His art is layered with typographical messages that add additional tiers of meaning; the works take on the nature of palimpsests, each one needing to be viewed at leisure, revealing new strata to be interpreted.
Roy first exhibited his work in 2011. He has been professionally rapping for the past three years. He has displayed his work before but ‘I Hope To Match Your Furniture’ is his first solo exhibit.
‘I Hope to Match Your Furniture’ is in collaboration with Latitude 28, a Delhi-based art gallery. “Sumit Roy has an output that is grounded in tradition but entirely contemporary in nature. A politically astute and multitalented wunderkind, his passion for art, design and rap music informs his output. The exhibition is that rare show that will see him excavate not just his artistic talent, but also his fascination with music as he engineers a rapprochement between the part and the future,” says Bhavna Kakar, founder/director.
Exhibition Dates: On till January 18, 2018
Venue: Visual Arts Gallery, Gate Number 2, India Habitat Centre, Lodhi Road, New Delhi
Here are a few of Roy’s paintings, also on display at the exhibition: