Born 1964 Khagaul, Bihar, India
Lives and works in New Delhi
Art is about life. So I make my work about myself and what I know – art is valuable because it is about experiences which have nothing in common with art. If you ask me why I find objects that Indians need to have when they are travelling long distances so appealing, I would say that I’m more interested in the representation those objects carry and the associations of hope and dreams that each piece is weighted with. I’ve often stopped over in the Gulf while going to Europe and met with many of these migrants. I got familiar with this issue, their life their dreams… At the airport,I was always struck by the number and the weight of the luggage these migrants bring back from the Gulf. They carry electronic goods, gifts for their family. These items are so valuable that they pack very neatly and with love.
Subodh Gupta’s art consciously plays on clichéd images of everyday life in India. While he works in a range media, Subodh Gupta’s inspiration stems from his early life in Bihar, India’s least economically developed state. His origins in this largely agrarian region have influenced the direction of his work as he reflects upon the difference existing in India between tradition and modernisation as the sub-continent develops economically. Subodh Gupta is known best for his sculptures made from accumulations of everyday objects such as antiquated machinery and stainless steel cooking utensils. Subodh Gupta’s liking for ordinary objects suggests a concern for the deprivation of India’s under class in contrast to the accelerating wealth of the rising middle class.
While Subodh Gupta is best known for his sculpture, his painting Idol Thief 2007 shown in the first of the two Passage to India exhibitions depicts enlarged close ups of stainless steel food containers, the kind that are commonly used in India by workers to carry meals to and from work. This theme is echoed in the work on exhibition Curry 2004 in which an enlarged plate rack made in stainless steel hangs on the wall. On its shelves sit plates, buckets, beakers etc. All the implements needed in an Indian kitchen. The distortion of scale creates an almost surreal presence. Taken out of context the sculpture could be easily reduced in the mind’s eye to the size a domestic plate rack, in the gallery it has a monumental appearance.
The title of Subodh Gupta’s second work in the exhibition There is Always Cinema (lV) 2008 in which an old door found by the artist has been cast in brass and then placed by Gupta’s one in front of the other suggests that even the most everyday detritus can reveal a concealed exotic or precious identity.