Vivan Sundaram

Self as Tahitian, 2001, Vivan Sundaram. Digital photomontage.
From Re-take of Amrita Series.

Vivan Sundaram is a contemporary Indian artist who belongs to family with a high artistic pedigree. His aunt was celebrated modernist painter Amrita Sher-Gil (1913-1941), who died at the age of 28 tragically cutting short her emerging career. His grandfather, Umrao Singh Sher-Gil (1870-1954) was an amateur photographer throughout the 1930s and 40s in British India and it’s following independence in 1947. Umrao’s catalogue of images features mainly photos of his family, his Hungarian wife Marie-Antoinette and two daughters, Amrita and Vivan’s mother, Indira.  There are literally hundreds of them.

Bourgeois Family: Mirror Frieze, 2001, Vivan Sundaram. Digital photomontage.
From Re-take of Amrita Series.

For his project, Re-take of Amrita, Vivan created a series of photomontaged images that overlay Umarao’s photographs and in some cases Amrita’s paintings. The reformatted and reproduced images  often position Amrita as the primary subject and many feature her in both her traditional Indian sari as well as European fashions from the 1930s.

An Umrao Singh Sher-Gil Boris, 2001, Vivan Sundaram. Digital photomontage.
From Re-take of Amrita Series.

The images from Re-take collapse the time between past and present as well as different generations. There are several montages where individual family members are presented as ghosts or alongside earlier versions of themselves. Vivan Sundaram’s reworking of his grandfather’s photos tell the multiple and often conflicting stories of changing country, time and family.

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