undecided// is Jayesh Joshi’s most honest work to date. Deconstructing masculinity within the 200,000 verses of the Mahabharata, he has created a truly remarkable series that focuses on the male form and psyche.
Joshi effortlessly relays classical iconography with present-day sentiments, simultaneously portraying his subject’s mental state alongside their physical being. This undoubtedly makes for a highly-complex project, however he has managed to communicate his ideas succinctly, enhanced further by accompanying poetry.
Arjuna – Brihanalla is one of the most compellingly and assertive pieces in the series. Throwing the concepts of gender identity and personal transition into the mix was never going to be straightforward, yet Joshi explores the narrative in conscientious and brutal fashion.
Whilst the characters in question were created over 1,500 years ago, the same themes regarding masculinity still echo today. Despite years of literature and art to suggest otherwise, a disproportionate number of viewpoints still insist on sculpting the male species into hyper-masculine, baby-making machines. Joshi addresses this head-on, particularly in Krishna Meets Karna, in which the protagonist can be seen confronting his own self-awareness; he is clutching his own heart, of which the metaphor will not be lost on the viewer.
The charming thing about this collection is that Joshi is unafraid to completely reinterpret the story behind the Mahabharata’s most typically male figures. The characters in this series, whether or not they’re conscious of it, are responding to their self-imposed limitations; the preconceived masculine ideal which they embody is suffocating them and now they must acknowledge it. Whether or not such suffering comes from their longing for perceived external validation, there’s no doubt that such conflict arises from deep-rooted blindness to this warped perversion of the male psyche. These men are beginning to deconstruct these transparent, idealised versions of themselves.
Dismantling the concept of the alpha male can’t be explained fully in a few hundred words, but Joshi has managed to achieve just that with this series of paintings. They are arresting and gritty, confronting the notion of softness within traditional masculinity.
Take a look at undecided// in its entirety here.