Discussion 27 – Subodh Gupta

Indian contemporary artists are currently gaining a lot of attention worldwide. These young breed of artists are making a mark on the international scene, both in terms of quality of work as well as in the value their works are commanding. One of the frontrunners of this scenario is artist Subodh Gupta, who through his interesting sculptures and installations showcasing commonplace objects has redefined how mundane artifacts are perceived. The works of Subodh are an eye-opener for us Indians in how he contextualizes and positions objects we all are familiar with, like the ubiquitous metal tiffin box,thali plate etc.  and how he associates meanings and connections to them. These objects gain added significance and meaning and transcend from their banal existence to an elevated one. There are stories and narrative interwoven into each installation, which Subodh himself explains in his unique vocabulary. There are social messages in his installations too as he tries to highlight issues through his works, often works that reflect the evolutions and transformations that our society is undergoing. One can see strong influence of Subodh Gupta’s personal context in all his works, how his experiences during his childhood trickle into his works. In a way his works and life are a good reflection of present day India, a country which is taking large strides forward on the back of a strong economy and also one where material progress is becoming equally important. An inherent restlessness is evident in his works, which is so characteristic of our society today.

Subodh Gupta was born in Patna and currently lives in Delhi. His works encompasses sculpture, installation, painting, photography, performance and video. One of his famous series is the ‘Still Steal Steel’, a series of photorealistic paintings on everyday kitchen utensils. There is a certain arrested motion in these paintings, with the objects captured in a moment of vibrant motion. His video ‘Pure’ is a literal and symbolic take on cowdung and purity. His works are highly sought after, being exhibited in prominent galleries and biennales around the world.

During the discussion that followed, our forum was divided on how to classify the artistic quality of his works. One group opined that it was easy to create such installations from commonplace objects and that it cannot be really classified as something great. However the majority of us were of the opinion that his art was powerful and that he was really successful in creating a dialogue between us and his work and also with the objects he has used. Even though his works are rooted in an Indian context, there is a certain global quality in his works which allows an international audience to appreciate and enjoy it.

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