Since being diagnosed HIV positive in 1995, artist Sunil Gupta writes, "I have been struggling to achieve and maintain a clinical goal of an ‘undetectable viral load’."
"Love, Undetectable," Sunil Gupta’s current exhibition, runs fluidly between the physical and emotional realities of what this means. Exploring tales and experiences of love, against the complex social backdrop of homosexuality and HIV, the political becomes deeply (and very beautifully) personal.
There are three bodies of work in the show. Broadly speaking, the title piece, “Love, Undetectable," along with "The New Pre-Raphaelites," deal with diverse forms of same sex love and gay identity in India through two starkly different representations of love’s attraction as it moves between the casual intimacy of the everyday and the extravagant expression of life’s most dramatic sentiments.
But ultimately it is the work in which the camera lens turns upon Gupta himself that seems to be the most important. If Gupta’s earlier work, "From Here to Eternity 1999," was the artist's exploration of his own body as a site of age and illness, following on in a similar yet distinct sense "Love and Light 2004-2009" moves beyond to see, or perhaps better experience, the beauty and love still present in the body in spite of such constraints. In contrast to the exhibition's title, love seems detectable – if fleeting and transient. Moving through places as diverse as Ladakh, Goa, Mexico City, Miami, Valencia and Helsinki, "Love and Light" is a series of diptychs that couple images of the world with images of the artist’s body simply being in that world. The photographs tend to evoke a kind of sigh of relief. A sigh that, as he moves from place to place, simply says, I’m here.
Just a few months after the Delhi High Court decriminalized consensual, same-sex relations among adults in India, reading down section 377 of the Indian Penal Code in early July 2009, the timeliness of Gupta’s exhibition can’t be overstated. Shadowed by a gentle and poignant sense of both the liberation and responsibility that characterise the gay community today, particularly since the prevalence of AIDS, "Love, Undetectable" articulates the complex ways in which these two words (liberation and responsibility) now appear as two sides of the same coin, or perhaps rather as the interdependence of the emotional and the physical….
-- Alana Hunt
(Images: Sunil Gupta, The New Pre-Raphaelites 11; Sunil Gupta, The New Pre-Raphaelites 13; Sunil Gupta The New Pre-Raphaelites 6; Sunil Gupta, The New Pre-Raphaelites 8; All images courtesy of the artist and Vadehra Art Gallery)