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News From:The Straits Timesposted on 25 March at 6:37 PM
25 March at 6:37 PM

Indian artistic duo Thukral & Tagra's window to the migrant world

By Deepika Shetty

On one of their earliest overseas trips, artist duo Thukral and Tagra surprised their relatives by returning back to India.

Jiten Thukral, one half of T&T, which they are better known as, recounts the incident early into this hour-long interview at Art Plural Gallery where their exhibition Windows Of Opportunity runs till May 25.

"One of my relatives thought I was stupid. I should have thrown away my passport and disappeared somewhere in Australia," he tells Life!

Their relatives thought they would "disappear" at some point but each time they travelled abroad, they returned to their Gurgaon studio and among other creative narratives, documented the story of Indian immigrants.

Like much of their earlier work, this too is colourfully compelling. Distinctly Western style houses with clothes drying on a line appear like floating forms in some canvases. In a series titled Pinball, the transformation of migrants once overseas is fittingly captured. Young Sikh men cut their hair, the wardrobe alters dramatically and identities are slowly lost in the hurry to be part of an adopted world.

"We have seen many Indians dreaming of leaving India and moving abroad. But when they do, they could not entirely give up home," they say.

Drawing on experiences and encounters they have had first hand, their new series of paintings and wall reliefs explore such ideas on many levels. A particularly moving series presents portraits of young people, their faces filled with anticipation, unease and expectation. All portraits are framed against the backdrop of airplane windows.

Through their cheeky works, Jiten Thukral, 37, and Sumir Tagra, 34, have in the past, addressed the cult of consumerism and the charm of advertising. But in this, their most recent outing - which references sharply the blinkered aspirations of Punjabi youth who are eager to flee their country - they raise the question: Can you really escape home?

The artists, who have been collaborating together since 2004 and are now widely recognised in the international contemporary art scene, delight in irony. They met during their college days at the New Delhi College of Art and briefly worked at advertising firm Ogilvy and Mather's New Delhi office.

Despite their unflinching comments on consumerism, their art is clearly collectible. It is in several celebrity collections, including that of singer Elton John and hedge fund billionaire Steve Cohen.

Their solo at Art Plural has been two years in the making and going by the works on display, it has been well worth the wait.

For more, read tomorrow's Life!

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