A Lover's Duet
The Boy and his Lover, 2020
The Shehnai pressed against the lips of the angel and the Ghungroo chiming softly from the boy’s ankles sing the songs of India in an uneasy harmony of cultures. The West is overpowering the East.
In this ongoing series, “The Boy and his Lover,” I reimagine Greek Iconographies as queer and erotic narratives loosely centralized around the story of Zeus and Ganymede. My fascination with Greek iconographies is rooted in my interests in their non-heteronormative portrayal of sexuality and eroticism. From the mischief and affairs of Zeus and the other gods to the desire for knowledge in pederastic relationships, I am captivated by how these Ancient Greek ideas both inform and contradict our contemporary understanding of queer love and desire. However, I did not intend for the works to be entirely eurocentric; I wanted to counteract this Europeanisation of my art by referencing my Indian heritage in the pieces, too. Hence, I decided to introduce symbols of India such as the Ghungroo (a musical ornament worn in many Indian classical dances) and Shennai (an instrument played at various Indian festivals and weddings). Even though the Western elements remain dominant in my illustrations, these elements of my Indian heritage help me convey the oriental struggles that I (a South Asian man) face while making and learning about art in Europe.
This series is a way for me to explore how the characters and ideas from mythological and classical Greece can be intertwined with autobiographical narratives of love, desire, sexuality and identity. The boundaries of these narratives are intentionally left ambiguous to facilitate my investigation of how they are consciously and subconsciously interwoven with each other, how one medium, style, and form can translate into another within my wider practice.
This idea of uncertainty and indefinite boundaries has only recently become an important part of my artmaking. Previously, I always felt tempted to fully understand and describe my work. Over time, I realized that this kind of methodology only restricts my practice and ideas. It belittles all of the subconscious thinking that I invest into my art, ideas that are important and present, but difficult to articulate with written or oral language. Even when talking about these pieces, I am reluctant to establish exact, rigid descriptions, since I want to leave room for the individual subconscious connections to be made. Through this series, I am learning to be okay with things not making complete sense and with embracing my intuition rather than always critically examining every object that I encounter or create.
I’ll listen to the sounds of India: the Shehnai, and the Ghungroo, and I’ll listen to the Greek figures in my work. They know more than I do.