Take a hard look at the lives of labourers in India through Vipul Prajapati’s graphite art

At his latest solo show, National Award winning artist Vipul Prajapati depicts the unsettling living and working conditions of labourers in Indian cities using found objects and graphite. Visit 079 Stories until Friday, April 5.

LtoR: Gallerist Purva Damani with Artist Vipul Prajapati

Like a pregnant grey sky that’s ready to drench the hot earth with its tranquil tears, artist Vipul Prajapati‘s artworks burst forth with stories, at his latest solo exhibition. Situated in the plush gallery of 079 Stories, the show’s 80 artworks painted in graphite, are inspired by personal experiences gleaned from the artist’s life. Many of the artworks depict his views towards the grave industrial waste in the country, the harsh life of labourers, and the unsettling conditions lived in by the workers who make these plush metropolises possible.

Having grown up alongside lush countryside experiences at the farms of his hometown Viramgam, Prajapati was never too fond of experiencing city life. He was disinterested in formal academics in his adolescent years and loved working on the farms. When he watched his father Nagji Prajapati create portraits, however, he became fascinated by how beautifully his father could recreate impressions of any subject on paper. So even though the young lad thought of the tranquil life in the farms as being far better than city life, his curiosity led him to accompany his artist father to CN School of Fine Arts, where he taught. This eventually made the young Vipul Prajapati come out of his shell and experience the field of visual arts. He came to Ahmedabad to join the same institute his father mentored at, and there, he learned the formal ways of the visual arts. With time, the young man developed his own pedagogy and artistic language. Today, Prajapati is a Gujarat State Lalit Kala Academy award-winning artist and has garnered an international grant of around $10,000 from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation for practising art.

The matchbox series by artist Vipul Prajapati

Prajapati’s last solo show, for which he earned a lot of appreciation for his fresh perspectives, took place in Ahmedabad in 2014 and was curated by sculptor Nayana Soparkar of Mantra Art Gallery. Now, after almost half a decade, Prajapati has once again come to the city to exhibit 80 of his artworks. Like previous exhibitions at 079 Stories, The Art of Storytelling and The Abstract Aesthetic, this contemporary art show, which opened on March 23, is also a collaborative effort between Purva Damani of 079 Stories and Kalpana Shah of Tao Art Gallery, Mumbai. It will remain open for all until April 3.

Graphite and charcoal on canvas by artist Vipul Prajapati

Prajapati’s art objects play the role of installations as well as paintings. He uses graphite as the base medium for all his 80 artworks. He crushes graphite sticks into dust and mixes them with transparent acrylic. This is then scrupulously applied onto various surfaces. This unconventional method helps Prajapati achieve a perfect shade of grey, a shade that is neither too black or too white and which still portrays the feeling of the conditions experiences by many at the grassroots.

At the exhibition, I noticed that various objects were placed at different spots in the gallery. When I asked Prajapati about this intentional arrangement, he informed me, “I like collecting and documenting randomly found objects in my art. It can be shirt collars, a branch of a tree or a piece of aluminium foil. It somehow reflects my nomadic nature, which persists since childhood. Once when I was visiting my hometown I used a randomly found wooden piece on canvas to showcase a building in my painting.” The random found objects also signify things in different than their usual roles, which are actually something else according to the artist’s perspectives. Like he used earbuds to showcase match sticks, or a wood log to portray the circle of life. This makes the paintings more personalised and artistic.

Gallery 079 Stories during the opening day of artist Vipul Prajapati’s solo show

The matchbox series of Prajapati, for which he has made large matchboxes using corrugated paper, is a reflection of his most inner thoughts and ideologies. The artist has adorned the surfaces of these matchboxes with his thoughts. Mimicking the creative images that are often printed on matchboxes, he depicts a train bogie, a photo frame, a temple form and even a bar. One can personally connect with Prajapati’s art subjects because they reflect the ordinary as well as unsettling realities of life, and yet express their aesthetics like a wordless poem. Being a writer who desperately tries to articulate such themes in my own writing, I feel satisfied when a creation succeeds at both subtly talking about the everyday milieu, and presenting itself with quirk and creativity.

An artwork made using randomly found objects by artist Vipul Prajapati

The art of Vipul Prajapati is dreamy, yet extremely realistic in nature. It makes surrealistic comparisons through meticulously crafted figures. Experience his art at 079 Stories until Friday, April 3, every day from 12 pm to 7 pm.

Delighted young viewers at Vipul Prajapati’s solo show

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