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Posted at: Jul 8, 2018, 1:23 AM; last updated: Jul 8, 2018, 1:23 AM (IST)

Mythology repackaged

Illustrator Adrita Das adds a new dimension to surrealism in artwork
Mythology repackaged
For today: The artist’s famous series, Gods Taking Selfies, is now a set of postcards

Arushi Chaudhary

Imagine Goddess Kali using one of her four hands to snap a selfie after having killed demon Daruka; Radha stealing a selfie as she indulges in raas-leela with Lord Kirshna; Lord Rama and Sita just chilling in the forest, browsing through their smartphones. If the epics that each one of us has grown up on were written today, the possibility of these sub-plots would have been very real. Mumbai-based illustrator and graphics artist Adrita Das has brought out a manifestation of this possibility to life by fusing religious iconography with present-day reality.

Adrita’s most famous work so far has been the Gods Taking Selfies series that inspired from her fascination with religious iconography. She felt intrigued by how these sacred figures would fit in the context of contemporary life. It was during her research on visual iconography that she observed that a lot of deities were captured in poses that made them look as if they were ready to snap a selfie. She started toying with the idea and, in 2015, was photoshopping smartphones into the hands of gods and compiling on her blog.

“It started as a personal project where I wanted to play around with the imagery that we have grown up seeing. But we often see gods as one-dimensional figures. My idea was to re-contextualise that imagery to explore what it’d be like if we view them in a more human dimension. More than a social commentary, this started as a fun project to mirror the all-encompassing selfie craze of our times.”

Given how guarded we are as a society about our scared figures, we can’t help but ask Adrita about any backlash to her work. She answers in the affirmative. “Yes, there was some backlash but it was mostly limited to online hate and trolling. But, there was definitely a lot more appreciation than criticism,” she says. Almost six months ago, Adrita compiled the series into a set of eight postcards that are now available for sale online. She followed it up with another set of postcards from Every People series.

“The second series focuses on abstract exploration of everyday lives of common people. The focus is to capture the expression of people as they go about the mundane routines of their daily lives and then to jazz it up with a pop of colour. It was my interpretation of diversity in the way people look and what makes them unique.”

So you have graphically illustrated images of someone sipping on a cold drink, a man shaving, a girl lining her eyes with a stroke of kohl, a woman travelling in Mumbai’s local and so on. The most telling of these is a picture of two lovers in Delhi, kissing against the backdrop of India Gate, with masks covering their faces — a commentary on the smog that chokes the Capital every year after Diwali. The collage borrows the lovers from the works of surrealist painter Rene Magritte and juxtaposes it against a Reuters photo of the India Gate taken during last year’s smog in Delhi.

Her work, The Last Cupcake, is also a similar parody collage where the iconic Last Supper has been recreated using women from different schools of art history. The work is a tasteful mash-up of the old and new worlds, where the gestures of the original have been fused with new characters to create a new narrative.

So what’s next for Adrita? She has recently co-founded a studio with a friend. She is also working on a card game series named Cards Against Sanskar, which is a play on Cards Against Humanity. While the concept is still in the works, one thing is for sure it’ll be an overload of Adrita’s trademark quirky illustrations and graphics.

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