“…I have been engaged with a kind of cultural politics deliberately, highlighting issues of race and gender and sexuality. And trying to unpick the notion that there’s a universal art, that is enshrined in the canon of art history, which seems to be genderless and colourless and so on. But we know that’s not the case.”
Interview with the artist 13 January 2006, Ottawa.
As an artist, curator, writer, and cultural activist, Sunil Gupta has made a significant contribution to contemporary art practice and discourse around the globe. Through his work he challenges stereotypes and questions beliefs, by exploring issues of race, gender, and sexuality, and related issues of access, place, and identity.
Gupta emigrated with his family from India to Montreal when he was a teenager. In the mid 1970s in New York City, he left business school to study photography at the New School. He earned an MA at the Royal College of Art in London, England, in 1983, and was based there until 2005, when he moved to India to pursue artistic projects. He was diagnosed HIV positive in 1995. In 1988, he co-founded Autograph: the Association of Black Photographers, a publicly funded coalition of photographers of Asian and African descent. In 1992, he started OVA: the Organization for Visual Arts, a curatorial company dedicated to promoting a new internationalism in the production and consumption of art.
Gupta’s photographs are autobiographical, drawing on his experiences as a gay man of colour living with HIV who moves fluidly within the landscapes, traditions, and cultures of his native India, and his adopted homes in Canada and England. The colour and narrative of the Bollywood films of Gupta’s childhood inform his photographs, which are usually presented in series. Images are combined with text or with other images, sometimes digitally, as in Homelands. His work has a characteristic insight and humanity. Gupta is currently working on a series about his lost childhood in India, and a series inspired by Indian mystical poems.
In 2000, Sunil Gupta received a Creative and Performing Arts Research Fellowship from the British Arts and Humanities Research Council, which culminated in the book and exhibition Pictures From Here.