When art meets cinema

Artist Abhishek Narayan Verma takes inspiration from films to create satirical works in his first solo exhibition, Diary of an Idler, in Mumbai

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(Left) A work from the series Black Stars are Shining Very Bright; (right) A work from the series titled A Game of Permutations & Combination; and (inset) Abhishek Narayan Verma

As a child, all of us are told stories that propagate the significance of ethics and values. However, when we grow up and step into the outside world, we realise how difficult it is to follow them in a society which is corroded by moral degenaration. Artist Abhishek Narayan Verma faced a similar situation. He decided to showcase this conflict in a humourous way through his creations. Over 60 of his works are on display as part of Dairy of an Idler, his first solo exhibition in Mumbai, which opened in Priyari Art Gallery yesterday.

He says, “During childhood, you are always taught by elders about what is right and what is not. When I saw the world as an adult, it was difficult for me to follow my life keeping those learnings in place. Whatever I would observe in the world and society, I started portraying that on canvas.” His works are mainly divided into two series — A Game of Permutations and Combination and Black Stars Are Shining Very Bright, apart from other independent creations. Made in black and white hues and bright colours, the paintings with neutral tones depict shadow play. The coloured ones, on the other hand, have some text too on the canvas.


He attributes cinema as one of his major influences. “Movies have had a great impact on my work. I take inspiration from false lighting which has been used since eternity to create drama on stage and screen. I first got to learn about it when I was pursuing my bachelors in fine arts. We would often go to watch a lot of plays. Also, in theatre, there is a play of shadow and light where one thing is revealed while the other remains hidden. I started observing it in cinema through the 1976 Italian film Fellini’s Casanova and Charlie Chaplin’s works. Chaplin used humour and satire to make a strong commentary on socio-political happenings.”

Elaborating the thought behind infusing text in his creations, the 27-year-old says, “I portray day-to-day absurdities and dysfunctionalities which I face in my life. When socio-political and cultural conflicts collide, there is a certain drama which I try to capture on my canvas. I started with my personal experiences and then looked towards the society. Today, in the entire world, there is a sense of violation of the ideal. So, I’ve distorted the text too. It all started with the question of ‘what if’, turning things on their head and finally presenting it to the audience.”


Abhishek, who hails from a small village in Siwan district from Bihar, was encouraged by his art teacher to pursue painting. Despite hailing from a Science background and qualifying for his engineering exam, he decided to move to New Delhi and pursue a career in art. After attaining a Masters degree in Visual Arts from the reputed MS University in Baroda, he started exhibiting his works in various parts of India and also participated in the Kochi-Muziris Student Biennale.

Quiz him about the exhibition’s title and he reveals, “Nithalle ki Diary (Diary of an Idler) is a common comment made by elders in northern India when they reprimand their children for wasting their time and instead ask them to be serious about life. Growing up, even I heard it quite often, as my father would wonder why I was wasting my time painting. But I followed my heart. Coincidentally, there is a collection of short stories written by famous Hindi author Harishankar Parsai, by the same name. I have admired Parsai since an early age, so it was apt that my exhibition should be named after his book.”

Diary of an Idler is on at Priyasri Art Gallery till March 15 from 11:30 am to 7 pm.

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