Akash Gaur, 28, claims to be a dreamer, apparently born to a family of dreamers, whose mealtime chats revolved around sharing bizarre escapades from the world of their subconscious. Being whacked by a cricket bat while also being bitten by a crazed dog, discovering a giant tattoo of Ravana inked across his teeth after a visit to the dentist, or waking to discover his hands are giant magnets that attract only cats are just a few dreams I saw illustrated at Akash's studio earlier this week. Weird? Sure. But then again, aren't all dreams weird? Doesn't the mind play the strangest tricks? What fascinated me the most wasn't what he dreamt, but the fact that he remembered a fair number of his dreams, meticulously documented in his journal, and recalled each as compositions that he then illustrated on paper.
Akash can sleep anywhere and at anytime. Whenever he cannot, he informs me, a book is all that's needed. So he doesn't read, preferring instead to watch TV and additionally being fed a steady supply of mythological fables and stories from his wife, who is very religious. As he mentions this, he points to a drawing framed behind us with a figure of Lord Ganesha sitting beside a smiling character from some manga series, something he alleges he has never watched or read before. As we go through more drawings, and consequently more dreams, I ask where he'd get the inspiration to draw if his dreams suddenly stopped. Would he stop making art? Of course not, comes his sharp reply.
Gaur confesses that he does play around with a dream’s image many times over, reading his journal often, but never imagines another way to represent the same dream.
Apocalypse is a project he initiated in 2012, asking family, friends, neighbours, vendors he works with and random passers-by what they made of the Mayan calendar prediction of the end of the world. Their replies are recorded as drawings, reproduced and compiled in an artist book, each person's contribution imagined as a different visual. Gaur is also working on another such book, based on the changes he has seen ever since he left his village in Haryana for Delhi five years ago, a surprisingly common source of inspiration for young artists making a similar migration. Image 2nd
As we chat, I notice a repetition of a single image, experimented with on different scales and in various mediums — pen and ink, laser-cut drawings on paper, acrylic on canvas. Gaur confesses that he does play around with a dream's image many times over, reading his journal often, but never imagines another way to represent the same dream. He prefers not to use colour (until now!), often places himself in his compositions, and sometimes inverts his drawings so that the bottom half is formed as a mirror image of the top half. He sleeps in the day and is curiously observant of everything around him, as he believes these impressions impact his subconscious mind, surreptitiously feeding his dreams. When not sleeping, dreaming or drawing, Akash dabbles in making film props with a group of friends from design school. This and other project commissions, like the 25-foot sculpture of a turban carved with jharokhas framed in the newly-opened Terminal 2 at Mumbai airport, help sustain his art practice. So far, he has been part of a few group exhibitions at Lado Sarai's Exhibit 320, Sarai's Open Studio at Devi Art Foundation and at last year's edition of the United Art Fair, but hopes to be able to show more. His art does have a long way to evolve but cannot do so in isolation.
I have often wondered on the limited exposure afforded by galleries to young artists, for whom it is imperative to interact with others in the field in order to be able to grow and build a healthy dialogue. Nevertheless, I feel optimistic about Akash Gaur's work, perhaps because it enlivens dreams and features a world of eccentricity filled with all things peculiar, yet never unpleasant. It is certainly a respite from our world, what with its crashing planes, epidemics, hunger and endless war.