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Indian-born artist makes it big, eyes India

By Gurmukh Singh, IANS,

Toronto : Indian-origin Gary (Gaurav) Taxali, who has made a big impact in the art scene in the US, Canada and Europe, says showcasing his works in India is his ultimate dream.

The impact of this Chandigarh-born artist can be gauged from the fact that the New York Times, Rolling Stone, Esquire, Time, Newsweek, Fortune, Reader’s Digest, Warner Bros, Paramount Pictures, Sony, MTV, and Coca Cola are among his major clients.

Famous US art director Steven Heller has paid him the ultimate compliment.

“Gary Taxali visually blends now with then. His style, inspired by vintage comics and advertising art, is repurposed with the goal of communicating the ironies and comical essence of popular culture. His work is at once alluring and endearing. Despite the vintage look, he is neither maudlin nor nostalgic. His imagery is rich in satiric verve,” Heller said.

An artist for all seasons, Taxali uses multiple media – ink, oil, acrylic, enamel and gouache – and a number of surfaces – paper, plywood, steel, aluminum – to create comical and serious works.

“I like to think of it (using different media) being more challenging than difficult. Sometimes it’s a happy surprise because when I make a piece of art that surprises me as to how it all came together, it’s the best feeling in the world. For that reason, I truly feel that I’ve barely scratched the surface when it comes to media exploration. I’d like to create a huge public sculpture, for example,” Toronto-based Taxali told IANS.

The 43-year-old artist, who left India with his parents when he was just one year old, says: “Tales of human condition shape how I create my work which serve me to portray sardonic situations and concepts in my work. I am inspired by the city (Toronto) I live in. I am also inspired by package design, advertising and old cartoons from the 1930s. I am also inspired by film. It has a big influence on me from a visual and conceptual level.”

Curiously, the Depression era’s sorry events have inspired his funny works.

“The invention of movies during the Depression had a big impact on the people. Immediately, they saw the entertainment capabilities of such a medium and therefore, the first ‘cartoons’ were made for adults. They all had adult themes and let’s face it, in that nation’s greatest Depression, people needed escapism and seeing the comical side of life was a needed antidote,” explains Taxali.

He says his Indian roots have impacted much of his works.

“I cannot escape where I come from and nor wish to, it’s a vital part of what shapes my view of the world and for that, I feel grateful that I have so many rich and diverse cross-cultural influences from which to draw from.”

Bollywood too inspires him.

“I grew up being obsessed by these amazing (Bollywood) action heroes and their power. It was uplifting and served me well as I had my ‘Indian Supermen’ as my confidence builders such as Amitabh Bachchan, who was the perfect idol. I have been working on a long-standing series of ‘fake’ Bollywood bad guys as a result,” he said.

Having mounted many exhibits in North America and Europe, Taxali is looking to explore India.

“Mounting a show in India would be a dream come true! I have gained wide recognition in the US, Europe and now Canada so India being my birthplace is the logical next step. I’d love to come back home and have an exhibit and see how people in India would see my work given it’s heavy influence of American pop culture and iconography intermixed with Indian symbols, marks, and typography,” he said.

“I am known for using old books as my canvas and it was originally seeing my father’s old Indian school books that sparked this.”

(Gurmukh Singh can be contacted at [email protected])