Defying the Conventional

At an open air exhibition ‘Disinformation’, Bhubaneswar-based visual artist Upali Mishra explores moral and ethical issues faced by individuals living in the contemporary society through her pen and ink drawings

Published: 10th October 2014 06:17 AM  |   Last Updated: 10th October 2014 06:17 AM   |  A+A-

Disinformation features a series of 10 thematic pen and ink illustrations loosely based on the ‘Decalogue’ (a set of biblical principles relating to ethics and worship, which play a fundamental role in Judaism and Christianity), where the artist explores each of the 10 commandments in a new contemporary light. The exhibition also features other themes such as isolation and disillusionment, temptation and gratification, shame and moral dilemma.

“We live in a world of stereotypes and patterns where everything has a preordained place. There is a constant need to fit in, to be accepted, to feel at home. Every waking moment in the buzzing confusion of the outer world, we pick out what our culture has already defined for us. We tend to perceive that which we have picked out in the form stereotyped for us by our culture,” she says, while explaining the idea behind Decalogue. Disinformation is largely influenced by Public Opinion by Walter Lippmann and the writings of George Orwell and Ray Bradbury.

Her medium - zentangles - is interesting. She draws inspiration from Devdutt Patnaik who draws illustrations for his stories on Indian mythology. “He works on straight lines, but I draw zentangles,” says Upali. Zentangles is the delicate skill of using structured patterns, usually drawn by a micron pen, which was started by US-based artist Maria Thomas and a monk named Rick Roberts. “In zentangles you fill up every space on your canvas with patterns and despite this, none of the art works look repetitive,” she says.

Most of her works are based on Hindu mythology, tales related to Lord Shiva and the Shakti in particular. “Hindu religion is very liberal, but now I find there have been two shifts. Either a person is religious or he is blasphemous. So it’s interesting to find the link between the shifts through art,” she says. The artist prefers to draw Shiva and Shakti as she finds them very interesting as compared to others in the Hindu pantheon. “Lord Shiva, for instance, is very powerful, yet all forgiving. Artistically, there is a lot of symbolism associated with him,” she says.

In one of the works, she shows Tantric Buddhism with Lord Shiva and his consort and in another, Upali draws the ‘tandav’ by the God when Parvati burnt herself in protest against her father who did not give Lord Shiva the respect she thought he deserved.

With a radical flair for bold ideas, many of her works embody the feminine power as well. In an illustration on Shakti, she draws the beautiful Goddess with every strand of her hair designed in a snake skin pattern.

In a series on moral dilemma, Upali draws on relationships. “In today’s society, relationships are tangled. Everybody is dissatisfied but at the end of the day, you have to put up with it. Your individuality fades away in your bid to merge with the society,” she says.

The open-air exhibition being held near Kalinga Hospital Square is also an attempt to bring art out of the confines of art galleries with a limited audience. “Art is for everybody. This is an opportunity for more and more people to experience art in the public space in an informal (natural) setting,” she says.

Last year, Upali quit her job as a graphic designer in Goa to pursue illustration independently in Bhubaneswar. For the time being, she is into freelancing. She has been painting for seven to eight years now and the works on ‘Decalogue’ and ‘Gratification’ were produced in the last six months. Her next series will be based on many of life’s ironies. Disinformation is open till October 12.

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