• Shivani Rao

Pop of Colour

Pop art is one of the newest art movements which emerged in mid and late 1950s in Britain and the United States respectively. Some of the artists that shaped the pop art movement were Eduardo Paolozzi and Richard Hamilton in Britain and Robert Rauschenberh and Jasper Johns in the United States. Andy Warhol and his artwork are what comes to mind everytime pop art and its evolution are mentioned.

Pop art incorporates images from popular culture and advertising, as opposed to elitist elements. It usually thrives over ironic themes and the material is often visually removed from its known context and/or combined with unrelated and unexpected material. The artwork is often not about the art itself as it is about the attitude behind the art.

Raja Ravi Verma, popularly regarded as the father of calendar art, is considered to be the pioneer of pop art in India. Alongside him, there were a number of contemporary popular artists like Hem Chander Bhargava, B.G Sharma, and others and others whose work became highly popular as a form of visual art.

New printing techniques meant good-quality colourful illustrations which could produced and distributed across undivided India on a mass scale. The popular calendar culture from the late 1900s to the early 2000s is broadly about four themes-

  1. Religious epic scenes, especially Mahabharata and Ramayana

  2. Patriotic portraits and representations of national heroes and leaders

  3. Cinematic, essentially portraits of movie stars

  4. Landscapes

While discussing especially the religious illustrations, these images forged a common identity to Hindus as far apart as Calcutta, Madras, Bombay and Karachi. They influenced styles and trends of the urbanising India. This era of glorious calendar art fostered a symbiotic relationship between visual and other arts like theatre, photography and films through posters, advertisements and banners.

Apart from calendars, another element of daily life which represented the evolution of pop and visual art in India are textile labels. Labels reading ‘Bombay-Calcutta-Karachi’ symbolise the unified India of the time and are valuable representations of the time in history. Journalist and author Sidharth Bhatia has been collecting mill labels since the 1990s and says, “They tell you about branding, graphic design, ownership and the building of reputation.” Radhi Parekh, whose Kala Ghoda gallery Artisans’ displayed some labels as part of a show last year, says they represent more than the Indian textile history.

The pop art culture has gradually melted into what is now being called as Neo Pop Art. Classical Pop Art was also deeply influenced by cinema, as can be seen from the works of legends like Andy Warhol. His artwork featuring Marilyn Monroe is unforgettable.

“Subversive art tends to demand it’s presence to be felt and demands a place in people’s minds to be pondered about and in turn helps shape the ideology of people,'' says Abhilash Baddha, a Pune based artist whose illustrations are often influenced by Asian pop and street culture. He is known for his satirical pop art, and one of his recent pieces represents the frailty and hypocrisy of the typical Indian family.

Image Credit - Abhilash Baddha

DeviantArt is an online community that fosters sharing of artwork. You can visit this page to better understand how astonishingly far Indian Modern Art has come. Elements from mythology and history are often fused with modern elements like memes to create pieces of art such as this -

Maria Qamar is a copywriter. According to her website, she chose to join the advertising industry because she wanted to be a rebel in her family. She is also an artist. Her pop art sketches bring out everyday situations that Indians face when they emigrate to western countries such as the US and Canada. Modern Indian pop artists are flourishing on Instagram, being a primarily visual medium, such as Srillustrator and Mehek Malhotra.

Pop art is an essential art form and is yet undiscovered by the masses as anything more than mere consumers. With the rise of easy access to designing softwares and tools, one can start dabbling in illustration and designing to maybe discover a medium of expression previously unconsidered.