Delhi-based Subodh Gupta’s Transformative Symbolic Sculptures


Subodh Gupta is one of my favorite international artists at this hour. His work both makes poetic and transcends its materials. Gupta’s works show the material conditions of his society, yet they at once mirror the yearnings for transformation by wealth that people worldwide harbor as deepest desires. Gupta’s works take on flights of fancy, as when a collection of buckets cluster together to form a tornado like funnel. His works reflect that of his contemporaries such as Elgreen and Dragset, in its humor and its unexpected transition of the everyday into the world of the spectacle. Gupta speaks of his country not having many contemporary art collectors, and having not a single major contemporary art showcase for the art of his country. Yet even without these to fortify him, he has risen above the daily grind of human existence to create some of the most remarkable, poetic and at once exotically unique bodies of art. As he is still in his fifth decade of life, we can look forward to many more years of being surprised and enlightened by his primordial mesmerizing and optically electrifying works.
Vincent Johnson
Los Angeles

Subodh Gupta’s Cascading Water

Subodh Gupta’s Cheap Rice Installation

Subodh Gupta

Sculptures by Subodh Gupta.

subodh gupta artist sculptor sculpture

subodh gupta artist sculptor sculpture

subodh gupta artist sculptor sculpture

subodh gupta artist sculptor sculpture

subodh gupta artist sculptor sculpture

via: thisistomorrow

excerpt from an interview with the artist:

MG: What would be your dream project?

SG: I don’t know. I’m dreaming all the time.

Marta Gnyp: The prophecies about our world as a global village seem to have come true. Thanks to new media, the Internet and the fast-pace of communication, we all seem to speak a similar language— even in the field of arts. Do you consider yourself an artist who works in the tradition of Western art? Is it inevitable that a good international artist has to relate to the Western art tradition?

Subodh Gupta: No. For me art has one language and it is not relevant to divide the artistic legacy and production into Western or non-Western. We all work in a similar way, from the visual and conceptual point of view. The art language is, however, not a common thing; it is something very secret and private. A good complicated movie or a good book can be understood easily by the attentive reader who knows how to read and interpret it. On the other hand, the artist is always rooted in his own tradition. This is the reason I use Indian objects and Hindu rituals. Jasper Johns could make the American flag the way in which he did it only because he was an American artist; it would carry a completely different meaning if a Chinese were to make it.

© Subodh Gupta
Date by Date 2008

MG: I read that getting to know the works of Marcel Duchamp was very important to you: you even recently remade one of his readymades which referred to L.H.O.O.Q., his Mona Lisa with a goatee Et tu, Duchamp? Do you consider the daily objects you use as a form of readymade? According to Duchamp, the readymade has to fulfill two criteria: it has to be visually neutral and not personal. I wonder whether these criteria apply to your work —firstly, because they are visually very attractive and secondly, because as I understand, they appeal to many Indians by calling up childhood memories. What is the function of these objects for you?

SG: I don’t believe that the ready-mades by Duchamp were not visually attractive to him. I respect Duchamp as a great artist and thinker and the Mona Lisa was a kind of homage to him, an expression of my admiration for his great artistic freedom in thinking. But my objects have a different character; I don’t care about the ready-made concept of Duchamp. I use what interests me, what is mine, what fits into my way of thinking and art making. Those simple kitchen utensils are a visual paradox of the shiny attractive appearance on the surface and the emptiness inside; they show in a very accessible way the extremities of our time: the nothingness and the exuberance, and on a concrete level, the lack of the most essential ingredient of our life—food and the striking accumulation of hollow expressions of any kind.

“Although he is recognized for his sculpture, Gupta originally trained as a painter. He made the shift to sculpture shortly after meeting his wife, fellow Indian artist Bharti Kher, who pushed Gupta to expand the boundaries of his practice. His paintings, though, are lovely: in “A glass of water” he displays several luminous canvases depicting the remains of consumed meals: forks, knives, and dirty plates. Food, the great evoker of memory, is relatable to all, and cultural boundaries are transcended as plates are scraped, tea is boiled, and bread is baked (or not). According to the exhibition’s press release, these objects act “as metaphors in a chimerical visual poem about global appetite.”

Full Moon,
2011, oil on canvas.

, 2011, oil on canvas.

, 2011, oil on canvas.

itled, 2011, bronze.

Mark o
ff, 2011, bronze.

, 2011, chrome steel, copper.

The artist with Et tu Duchamp? (2009-10) Installed in Southwood Garden, St James’s Church, London. Photo by Stephan Wyckoff.

A work from the exhibition “Common Man” at Hauser & Wirth London, 2009.

A work from the exhibition “Common Man” at Hauser & Wirth London, 2009.

A work from the exhibition ”Faith Matters” at the Pinchuk Art Museum in Kiev, 2010.

Detail from above. – J. Lindblad

MG: Does this partly explain why your work is so successful outside India as well?

SG: My themes are universal, although my references could be named the Indian village traditions, i.e. usage of cow dung and the importance of food. There is a combination of local and global languages. Everybody can read and understand in my art the paradoxes of our life.

mushroom cloud sculpture by subodh gupta 1

mushroom cloud sculpture by subodh gupta 1

“When Gupta uses the everyday object (utensils) it is with the full intention and knowledge of the fact that these objects are undergoing a transition from the everyday to that of objectified Beauty. Therefore, it is not a representation of the Duchampian idea of the found object, but rather a negation of it. It is not meant to challenge the idea of what constitutes art, and it is not a critique of art or the art world. It is an intentional act in which Gupta transforms the objects original function/meaning/intent so that he can call attention to the notions of idealized Beauty especially within the cultural norms of Indian society. The viewer is presented with an idea of Beauty, evident in what has now become an object of art, and will now be contemplated as such.”

Georgina Maddox   |   Mail Today  |   New Delhi, April 21, 2012 |

Subodh Gupta, Spill, 2007, Stainless steel and stainless steel utensils, 170 x 145h x 95 cm.

Subodh Gupta, Untitled, 2011, oil on canvas. All images courtesy Hauser & Wirth.

“Subodh Gupta is one of India’s leading young Indian artists. He was born in Khagaul and studied at the College of Art, Patna from 1983 to 1988, before moving to New Delhi where he currently lives and works. Trained as a painter, he went on to experiment with a variety of media. His work encompasses sculpture, installation, painting, photography, performance and video. The Guardian once called him the Damien Hirst of Delhi. Gupta transforms the traditional icons of everyday Indian life into artworks that are globally accessible. He is among a generation of artists whose commentary speaks of a country on the move, fuelled by considerable economic growth and an increasingly materialistic mindset. Gupta’s strategy, appropriating everyday objects and turning them into artworks that dissolve their former meaning and function, contains echoes of artists like Duchamp.”

“New Delhi-based Indian artist Subodh Gupta’s sculptural installation titled Line of Control mimics the dismaying mushroom cloud that forms from the deployment of nuclear warfare, most historically recognized from the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The piece features 26 tons worth of stainless steel utensils, including spoons, cans, pots, and pans.

While we’re most familiar with the nuclear explosions in Japan, the interdisciplinary sculptor’s powerful work seeks to draw attention to a massive issue with global significance. The title Line of Control also alludes to the Indian-Pakastani border of military control at the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir. In an interview with Daily Mail, Gupta says “In 1999 I made the first drawing of a mushroom cloud when India and Pakistan were on the brink of a nuclear war. They were having conversations like how many people were going to die if India used its nuclear power. It chilled my heart.”

Ultimately, the artist criticizes the use of atomic weapons with his towering installation that took seven days to install. LOC is currently on display at Kiran Nadar Museum of Art and open for the public to view.”


Observations: Indian art superstar Subodh Gupta thinks locally, appeals globally

By Gareth Harris

Friday, 2 October 2009

Subodh Gupta has not been dubbed the “Damien Hirst of Delhi” for nothing. The Bihar-born artist, who started as a painter in the 1980s before branching into installation and video work, is widely acknowledged as India’s first contemporary art superstar. His monumental, wham-bam sculptures, created from mundane items such as tiffin food pots, milk pails and cow-dung patties, not only reflect India’s rural roots but herald its rapid metamorphosis into an economic powerhouse.

“I am the idol thief. I steal from the kitchen,” says Gupta, adding that as a child, he often took food to his father, a railway worker, in a tiffin. The pots and pans of Gupta’s installations may well act as flashpoints for the sub-continent’s transformation but appeal also to international art audiences.

“Trained as a painter in the College of Art in Patna, he went on to experiment with a variety of media. His work encompasses sculpture, installation, painting, photography, performance and video. And that is how Gupta broke free of the straight-jacket instructions that he received at art school. As the article states “Gupta is quick to confess that he didn’t learn anything in art school. His only other training in the arts had been during his adolescent years, when he travelled with Hindi language theatre groups, both as actor and set designer. “In five years (in College of Arts & Crafts, Patna), they taught us what they teach in art preparatory schools in Europe,” he says. But awareness of this handicap affected the way the young Subodh would navigate the world of contemporary art. “When people spoke of art history, I had no idea what was going on,” he admits.”

Subodh Gupta: A Glass of Water

June 17th, 2011

Et tu, Duchamp? (detail), 2009 Black bronze 114 x 88 x 59 cm / 44 7/8 x 34 5/8 x 23 1/4 in Marble plinth: 123 x 123 x 122 cm Overall height: 237 cm

Et tu, Duchamp? (detail), 2009 Black bronze 114 x 88 x 59 cm / 44 7/8 x 34 5/8 x 23 1/4 in Marble plinth: 123 x 123 x 122 cm Overall height: 237 cm. Courtesy of Hauser and Wirth

In 2006 Subodh Gupta’s work Very Hungry God was shown as part of Pinault’s collection when Palazzo Grassi opened, and since then Gupta has been compared to Hirst in his meteoric rise to becoming one of India’s most prominent contemporary artists.

Gupta created works of large, photo-realist oils of empty plates, roped baggage, installations of airport conveyors, sculptures of common kitchen implements, and he’s made, Pure a 9 minute video of him washing his naked body smeared in cow dung. The above is a rendition of Duchamp’s work as a sculpture, such that one can look behind it…

Installation view, Sara Hildén Art Museum, Tampere, Finland, 2011 Photo: Jussi Koivunen Courtesy of Hauser & Wirth Gallery

Subodh Gupta solders stainless steel tiffin carriers, pots and pans into these egg shapes shown here. ‘Incubate’ Installation view, Sara Hildén Art Museum, Tampere, Finland, 2011 Photo: Jussi Koivunen Courtesy of Hauser & Wirth Gallery

© Subodh Gupta,  Wall, 2009 Fibreglass, paint, brick wall 475 x 190.5 x 143.2 cm / 187 x 75 x 56 3/8 in Courtesy of Hauser & Wirth

© Subodh Gupta, Wall, 2009 Fibreglass, paint, brick wall 475 x 190.5 x 143.2 cm / 187 x 75 x 56 3/8 in Courtesy of Hauser & Wirth

Subodh Gupta at Hauser & Wirth NY 2011

Subodh Gupta at Hauser & Wirth A glass of water (detail), Photo: Thomas Mueller

Subodh Gupta Installation view, Sara Hildén Art Museum, Tampere, Finland, 2011 Photo: Jussi Koivunen Courtesy Hauser and Wirth

©Subodh Gupta Installation view, Sara Hildén Art Museum, Tampere, Finland, 2011 Photo: Jussi Koivunen Courtesy Hauser and Wirth


Francois Pinault stands near the giant skull sculpture ‘Very Hungry God’ by Subodh Gupta at the opening of a contemporary art show in Moscow on March 19, 2009. The exhibition, at the ‘Garage’ gallery run by Daria Zhukova girlfriend of Russian billionaire oligarch Roman Abramovich, displays selected works from Pinault’s personal collection.(Photo credit: YURI KADOBNOV – AFP -Getty Images)

Gupta is married to artist Bharti Kher and they are both on the cover of the June 2011 India issue of Wallpaper (subscribers cover)

Subodh Gupta’s new works A Glass of Water is showing at Hauser & Wirth.

Hauser & Wirth New York, 32 East 69th Street, New York NY 10021 – 5 May – 18 June 2011, Hauser & Wirth New York

Suboth Gupta, painting

SUBODH GUPTA, Atta, 2011, Painted Bronze, flour, table

Suboth Gupta, Three Monkeys

Subodh Gupta, I Believe You
Subodh Gupta, I Believe You
Subodh Gupta, A Penny for Belief II

New Abstract Paintings: The Cosmos suite (2012)

Cosmos. Oil on canvas  2012 by Vincent Johnson

Cosmos Red Yellow Green. Oil on canvas 2012 by Vincent Johnson

Green God. Oil on canvas 2012 by Vincent Johnson

This new painting series is part of my ongoing exploration of painting materials and techniques from the history of painting. The works combine knowledge of painting practices of both abstract and representation paintings. The works concern themselves purely with the visual power that paintings can do through the manipulation of paint. Some of the underpaintings are allowed to dry for months; some of those are built dark to light, others light to dark. None are made in a single setting. Most are worked and reworked using studio materials. Each new series takes a different approach to the painted surface from how the paint is applied, to varying the painting mediums. This suite concerns itself with the layering of paint by building up the surface and altering and reworking the wet paint with studio tools.

Two larger paintings will be completed and photographed on Sunday, July 1, 2012 and posted here.

Vincent Johnson

Los Angeles, California

Vincent Johnson, Grayscale painting: The Storm (2012). Oil on canvas, 30×40 inches, created in studio in Los Angeles, California

Vincent Johnson, Grayscale painting, Snow White/White Snow (2012). Oil on canvas, 30×40 inches, created in studio in Los Angeles

Vincent Johnson is an artist and writer in Los Angeles

Vincent Johnson, Nine Grayscale Paintings, Beacon Arts Center, Los Angeles, (2001). Oil on canvas. Each panel is 20×24 inches.

photograph of silver paint on my hands in studio, Los Angeles, during the creation of Nine Grayscale paintings.

Vincent Johnson – in Los Angeles studio working on Nine Grayscale Paintings, 2011

Vincent Johnson received his MFA in Fine Art Painting from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California 1997 and his BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He is a 2005 Creative Capital Grantee, and was selected for the Baum: An Emerging American Photographer’s Award in 2004 and for the New Museum of Contemporary Arts Aldrich Art Award in 2007 and for the Art Matters grant in 2008, and in 2009 for the Foundation for Contemporary Art Fellowship, Los Angeles. In 2010 he was named a United States Artists project artist. His work has been reviewed in ArtForum, The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, Art in America, Art Slant and many other publications. His photographic works were most recently shown in the inaugural Pulse Fair Los Angeles. His most recent paintings were shown at the Beacon Arts Center in Los Angeles.

One thought on “Delhi-based Subodh Gupta’s Transformative Symbolic Sculptures

  1. Conceptualized and implemented in November 2011, The Yamuna-Elbe public art project was conceived as part of the India Week celebrations in Hamburg. It aimed at making people rethink their sacred and need based relationship with the river and the fragile ecology it supports by making it part of the art. Most of the works done by Indian and German artists were lined up along the two riverbanks. Signifying the general apathy, artist-environmentalist and co-curator of the project, Ravi Agarwal, was quoted as saying, “While the river Yamuna is really on nobody’s mind in Delhi, the city of Hamburg has actually maintained the tidal data of the river for the last 100 years for each day.” Atul Bhalla conceived a 12- part series of a photo-performance on Elbe. Gigi Scaria’s 25-foot-high, fascinating fountain, kept pumping water from the river Yamuna and purify it as it’s pushed up. The artist intends to make similar fountains nearby several other polluted rivers of India.

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