Gupta's quartet at Art Basel Hong Kong
Nature Morte brings to Art Basel Hong Kong, four vessels by artist and sculptor Subodh Gupta. The sight of a large brass handi with a little lota within presents a picturesque sight, people will go and preen into the darkness of the handi and see that the individual components of the lota is worn and tarnished within. However, the shiny brass outside creates a visual phenomenon, so when looking at it from a slight distance viewers may mistake the site as one of vibrant, metallic abundance perhaps looking like a golden orb.
Through the 2018 installation — Gupta gives us a nod to both Duchamp's iconic ready made and the poet Kabir reference to the vessel of life — Gupta urges viewers to consider the societal paradoxes that exist in India as a result of hastened economic development despite prevailing poverty and injustice.
The use of everyday, domestic objects as a vehicle to discuss the sociopolitical situation of globalization in India continues in the next area of the gallery. On another wall is a triptych of three views of a pan. The first zooms into the surface texture – we are looking at material translation, where the form and structure of socio-cultural traditions remain, but as a mere semblance because, from a distance, we can also feel we are looking at a cosmic study and not a frying pan's inner facets.
These three works that act as one painting take us back to the Gupta's beginnings as a painter as well as his childhood when he watched his mother cooking in a small kitchen. Gupta looks at domestic objects with an uncommon devotion and reverence rarely seen in the capitalistic materialistic world of today.
In this brilliant work he is drawing our attention to our consumerist culture – where objects are bought, used, discarded, and forgotten –Gupta paints hyper-enlarged versions of the pans on canvas and invites audience responses.
The three-part painting depicts the pan blown up to scale and adds meaning and intensity to the scratch marks seen on the original kitchen vessel, inspiring viewers to get closer and observe its unspoken history. Perhaps poetic is the corollary of conversations we are given, the vessel and its cosmic inverse, the unfathomable distance between our mortal lives – (humble vessel) and the mysterious cosmos. Gupta says, "When I created these paintings I was asking questions – what would it mean to address the world's people not as an anonymous mob/crowd but as individuals who can each possess a piece of infinity."
This triptych at Art Basel Hong Kong continues his investigation into the sustaining and even transformational power of the everyday idiom. The anthropologist and writer Bhrigupati Singh once described Gupta's paintings as "the patterns we create through our diurnal scrapings, the marks we leave night and day, through rise and fall, joy and sorrow, on the surfaces of our ordinary domestic vessels that journey with us, sometimes for years. What we discover in the process are intricately crafted pieces of the cosmos. By bringing us ever closer to the intricate texture of our everyday lives."
Singh wrote, "Subodh Gupta reminds us that what is near, is no less cosmic or mysterious."