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
Spill

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
Fill


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 Z├╝rich  through November 13, 2010.  For more on his work, visit this link-





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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. dailyundertaker@gmail.com

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