Clickhappy! Feb '14
Vishal Tondon’s initial artworks were also expressions about his sexuality
The start of my career as a professional artist coincided, a decade ago, with the act of my coming out of the closet. I began my foray into the art world with religious-erotic art: homoerotic paintings inspired from the ‘male’ gods. Of course, this coming out did not happen dramatically over a couple of days; it took over a year as the artworks poured out and were exhibited in two shows across that year.
At home, as the paintings turned out ‘hot from the press’, my mother laboured hard over them to try and decipher what the male nudity in my paintings was all about. I guess my mother wanted to understand and be a part of it, but her militantly religious nature was stopping her from going all the way. I would often speak to her about the work and when she confronted me about the male nudity, I would cleverly give my sexual fascination a religious-erotic twist on the lines of the Bhakti cults and movements. I don’t think she was entirely convinced, but she was fascinated all the same; she certainly wasn’t able to dismiss the issue of my sexuality altogether. She knew from my work that it was more than just about sex.
Today my mother is quite supportive of my sexuality. She has her mood swings and sometimes she does regress into the conventional mode of thinking. But I believe that coming out to her through my work was the best strategy. I do not do this kind of art anymore; I have graduated to making public art and experimental works. My older religious-erotic paintings inspired from the works of masters such as Aubrey Beardsley and Jogen Chowdhury were criticized by some senior artists as being ‘romantic’. I beg to differ. I feel the work is very significant in the purpose it served – my act of coming out at work and at home.
All paintings pen and ink on paper.
July 1, 2017: In a sad development that deeply impacted his family, friends, colleagues and admirers, Vishal Tondon committed suicide on this day in Hyderabad. Read more here – Editor.
Vishal Tondon is an artist, writer and art curator. He has a Master's Degree in History of Art from Kala Bhavan, Santiniketan. His interviews and articles have been published in Art Etc, Art News and Views, Searching Lines, Art Varta and Channel6. He has also illustrated six books on mythology for children, which were published by Penguin Books in 2011. In October 2012, he curated a major international exhibition on queer art. The show was presented by Wajood LGBT Society, Hyderabad, and was hosted and supported by Anveshi Research Centre for Women’s Studies, Hyderabad. Vishal Tondon can be contacted at email@example.com.