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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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