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GR Iranna

Indian Contemporary Artist
Born 1970, Sindgi, Bijapur, Karnataka, India
Lives and works in New Delhi

Iranna, a mixed media artist, working mainly with painting, videos and sculptures, explores the inherent containment and freedom of the time  and space boundaries. His works are highly philosophical bordering on post-modernism, looks at the innerness of man and the existential crisis of modern life.



Master of Fine Arts (Painting), College of Art, New Delhi


Bachelor of Fine Arts (Painting), College of Visual Art, Gulbarga, Karnataka, India



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The contrasting elements of the world intrigues Iranna

His work seems to be conceptually engaged in the dialectics of immobility and transition, past and present, urban and rural, death and regeneration and structures of power. His recent paintings reflect forms and images that belong to an agrarian environment- the earth space, its energy, agricultural tools, the ox are all recurrent in his art. These become oblique self-portraits of dislocation and estrangement , while the immediate environment is removed from the here and now. This is the “spirit of his work”, the dynamism of form and content call into question any one perspective or vision. Amidst the urban social fabric, the old and the new values stand in sharp disparity, which in effect help him break frontiers between visible and invisible, secret and knowledge, universal and particular. 

GR Iranna, Tapasya, 2012, wood and metal, 6 x 11 x 4”.

The figure of the Bhikshu monks recurs in his works

Often appearing in groups praying, travelling or simply facing the viewer, the ever-present Bhikshu monks inhabit in-between spaces in Iranna's works. Several paintings show the monks standing against blank or abstract backgrounds. Sometimes they emerge from a forest that is nothing more than the faint outlines of trees or stand out against a bright yellow backdrop with an inverted tree placed below their feet. For Iranna the figure of the monk points towards peace, an absence of desire, struggle and longing manifesting as transcendence in the search of meaning. There is an absence of faces, or facial expressions, of stability to bridges and depiction of journey without a destination. He uses the Buddhist iconography as a metonym for larger questions, in his search to understand the Being against the backdrop of our incomplete mortal journeys. His interventions show our failure at explaining our origins while personalising them as an artist opens up questions of universal and particular.

GR Iranna, Timeless Object2012,acrylic on tarpaulin, 60 x 66”.

Iranna uses the body as a site of subjection and dislocation

In Wounded Tools Iranna depicts a donkey going up in air while still harnessed to a cart that carries wounded tools. The donkey levitates due to the weight of its own burden, the weapons of mass destruction it is carrying. The figure of the donkey is recurrent in Iranna’s works. While here the donkey is depicted as subjected to the power of his master, in another painting it can be seen as a dislocated, estranged figure who has somehow found its way into a bull fighting scene. Iranna uses the figure of the donkey as a fertile metaphor for human condition under the burdens of the industrial state and undignified labour. In Dead Smile one comes across naked and tonsured bodies and in his paintings and sculptures his men are blinded and faceless hiding/hidden behind hoods. He not only criticises the modern society for the blindness of these men but all those who constitute it including himself for this self-imposed blindness. Iranna also de-familiarises the experiences of the body. In another painting he provides Bheeshma not with a bed of arrows but with a bed of springs.

GR Iranna, Make Sure You Are Breathing, 2006, acrylic on fibreglass, jutebag, 6 x 2 x 2”.

His social and political narratives weave in the metaphysical

Iranna explores hunger and blindness as an attempt to connect to history. The Buddhist monks carry begging bowls. Iranna comments that these monks exist in the in-between space of begging and blessing. Images of food and feeding are recurrent in several other works. In a large diptych “Wheat for Wait” a grain bag is covered with numerous rubber nipples. “You have one plate of rice and so many people to feed,” explained Iranna. Similarly he uses the idea of blindness to comment on religious fundamentalism, corrupting of innocence, agency and “manufactured consent.” Donald Kuspit describes his The Birth of blindness as “the human truth of our times, showing a man as a being that has become part of a modern, industrialised mass society, where conformity and order are maintained by a silencing of individuality and free thought.”

GR Iranna, Day After, 2012, wood and fibreglass, 65 x 42 x 17”.

GR Iranna, Carrying Empty Bowls (diptych), 2012, acrylic on tarpaulin, 60 x 132”.

Recent works of his have been proclaimed as protest art

He attempts to show the truth of the human condition, how man has fallen, abject and anonymous, stripped naked and emasculated, squatting submissively, line up in rows, shrouded in plastic, daring not to speak. In his works Iranna makes references to Nazi soldiers, footballers, depicts the dispossession of men due to 20th century genocides and imperialism. He attempts to depict the dispossessed and unclaimed human beings who do not have a past or a future. Iranna foresees a future where more and more men would be dislocated and rendered unclaimed. They will be like fugitives in their own land and only a beast of burden like the donkey would follow them.

GR Iranna, The Dead Smile, 2007, 20 figures, fibreglass and cloth, 29 x 24 x 32”.