Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Ordinary Becomes Extraordinary: Subodh Gupta

ritual art, death Subodh Gupta, memorial art, death and art, death ritual, customs
Cosmos V

Great art takes something ordinary like looking out a window, eating lunch, or walking down a staircase, and allows us to see it in a new way, enriching our lives with the artist's vision.  Similarly,  it allows us to experience and deepen our relationship with unknowable and overwhelming issues of life and death.

ritual art, death Subodh Gupta, memorial art, death and art, death ritual, customs
Subodh Gupta

This is certainly the case with the work of New Delhi artist, Subodh Gupta.  Mr. Gupta's work can range from the conceptual placement of a stainless steel tiffins on a platter, to hyper realistic paintings of these objects in motion, to exacting sculptures depicting these ordinary objects in marble.  Each of his works helps us to understand the others more deeply.  The ordinary objects used to carry food and drink for millions in India have a powerful subtext, especially when soldered and welded into a giant mushroom cloud, or UFO.

ritual art, death Subodh Gupta, memorial art, death and art, death ritual, customs

When we are confronted with a life size marble sculpture of a multi-armed Hindu goddess slaying a demon, we feel that we are in the presence of the super-natural, whether our tradition is Christian, Moslem, or Hebrew.  The juxtaposition of the ordinary, in the form of neon tubes and incandescent light bulbs, however, brings this supernatural vision into an every day plane of reality.  Earth invades heaven as heaven invades earth, and we are forced to rethink our assumptions about both. 

ritual art, death Subodh Gupta, memorial art, death and art, death ritual, customs

A stainless steel pail.  What could be more mundane or lowly?  This is an object that is associated with the messy and unpleasant tasks of cleaning and perhaps farm work.   When it spills out a foam of containers for food, or is crafted out of marble, we are given an opportunity to see it anew and re-evaluate our thoughts about the work that is done with a pail, and the work that is done with food and art objects.

ritual art, death Subodh Gupta, memorial art, death and art, death ritual, customs

My interest in sharing Mr. Gupta's work started even before seeing his more obviously spiritual and death themed pieces.  His challenging transformation of everyday objects qualified the work for discussion in this forum because it is a wonderful analogy for ritual.  Ritual in its simplest form changes the ordinary tasks of placing a ring on a finger, or carrying a fellow human to their place of rest, into something meaningful, memorable and transformative.

ritual art, death Subodh Gupta, memorial art, death and art, death ritual, customs

A stainless steel tiffin, indistinguishable from countless other containers carrying hot mid-day meals, is just a tiffin; but when it is intentionally used in artwork, it can represent for us sustenance, work and lives.  When its form is hewn from stone with great exactitude and increased scale, our perception of the object, its purpose and its meaning are enriched. When it is joined together with hundreds more, welded into a giant death head or geometric form, we are invited into a new understanding about life, and we come away never seeing that tiffin or our relationship with death in the same way again.  

ritual art, death Subodh Gupta, memorial art, death and art, death ritual, customs
Tiffin in Marble

Mr. Gupta's work is currently on display at Hauser & Wirth Gallery in Zürich  through November 13, 2010.  For more on his work, visit this link-

For more posts on Art and death, click here

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Death on Twitter

  1. Deborah Naardenmevr_naarden 
    Im so proud♡ , Elijah (7 year old ) playing the drums at his grandmothers funeral
  2. Brandy FaulknerBrandyFaulkner 
    Going to be such a weird day. Going to a Funeral then a football game.
  3. Gia Milinovichgiagia 
    @MimFox Of course! Burial/cremation are fundamentally ways of 'dealing with' the body. It's just some want to sprinkle fairy dust on top.;)

  4. riana andrianirianariani 
    dear my opung i hope you rest in peace in heaven :( i wish i can come to your funeral tomorrow (21/09/10)

  5. Brian Papabpapa 
    There is some sort of truckers funeral procession or parade stretching for miles on I84 and it is awesome.

  6. Lowdown LorettaBrownNova_Miu 
    Home alone. Exploring the liquor cabinet. The Johnnie Walker Blue Label looks like a funeral casket #doingthemost

  7. Nurul Farhananurulfmohtar 
    at home again, in Parit Buntar. A funeral and a wedding ; yesterday it was.

  8. RAWRBieberHitGirl 
    i hope cancer gets cancer and dies ,then id go to the funeral i beat the crap out of cancer #RIPhannah

  9. Autumn WilliamsAutumnSixx 
    In very uncomfortable funeral clothes :/

  10. Hips for HireHipsForHire 
    RT@kegill then you and I are among the lucky ones, who face death, and thus can better embrace life! #BTD

  11. JennyJenndola 
    @bellebeandog Utah is famous for its funeral potatoes. They are awesomely tasty. Cheese, sour cream, potatoes - where could that go wrong?

  12. Jeremy RandsJeremyRands 
    Pray! I am heading to the funeral of the man I watched die in a car crash Sunday. I desire greatly to see his family saved.

  13. rachel slursrachelslurs 
    there's something strangely ironic about going to burger king before a funeral.

  14. Buddy  BurkBuddytc 
    well the funeral is today for Mrs Jackie Yancey ...... y'all please pray for her and her family..... iiiiii

  15. Linda KnightLindaShirley 
    @jmhzia morning my friend, yes its hospice, then the funeral home and to german restaurant.

  16. Stacy Small EliteTravelGal 
    Thinking of my dad 2day as Yom Kippur was always impt 2 him. Didn't grow up religious but this was the 1 day of yr we always went 2 temple

  17. Karen  Poncepsychonightelf 
    is re-reading a card from her Lola. Cremation was this morning. Thinking of Lola and everyone back home.

  18. Jill WilliamsChefJillW 
    Funeral procession on franklin rd and I am 1 of 2 cars pulled off the road. Society makes me sad sometimes.

  19. Lauren Davistellcincinnati 
    And due to my dad being crazy cakes, we're 2 hours early. The guy at the funeral home offered to make us cookies, lol.

  20. Kem Oonenonlynony 
    It annoys me that people think its okay to wear jeans to any funeral service

  21. OrganizedWisdomRelationshipsOW 
    Nothing Like a Good Funeral....: I didn't really know the deceased, but I knew her son quite well. I... #relationships

  22. Ian WellzIanwellz 
    You should not be wearing more than 4inch heels at a funeral. #inappropriate

  23. Mar OrtizWhatSheDesires 
    I literally had a small anxiety attack at the funeral home! I'm not good with funerals! :/
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Funeral service faces a crisis of relevance, and I am passionate about keeping the best traditions of service alive while adapting to the changing needs of families. Feel free to contact me with questions, or to share your thoughts on funeral service, ritual, and memorialization.