Subodh Gupta: The Imaginary Order of Things

“In some ways, my work is rather theatrical. You might say there is a casting behind it and that everything used in it is quite theatrical”, Subodh Gupta (born Khagaul, Bihar, India, 1964) has explained with regard to his creative process.

These references to the theater and the world of acting are not chance ones. Subodh Gupta was an actor for a time and his use of this simile offers a comparison between the steps involved in creating a work for the theater and a work of visual art.

Gupta makes use of a wide range of different materials and methods that also reveal the hierarchy of India’s social classes. These materials include the modern, shiny containers and kitchen implements used by wealthy family in developed areas, which the artist contrasts with the simple, traditional objects employed in rural zones. Gupta’s work aims to offer a faithful reflection of the reality that surrounds him and to be a bridge between Indian culture and that of the rest of the world.

For Fernando Francés, Director of the CAC Málaga: “Subodh Gupta is possibly the most poetic artist in the world. He does not renounce the material, but in fact bases himself on it, taking it to the limits of exaggeration, monumentality and the baroque (Bombaysers de Lille, a homage to the victims of the 2004 tsunami), it succeeds in making emotion – a sentiment as close-at-hand as it is rare – spread into and overturn all the boundaries and walls of thinking and reason. He is a sort of modern Robin Hood who appropriates the Indian drama, re-codifies it, imbues it with an emotional charge and gives it back to us as a gift for the eyes and mind. Nothing is the result of chance in his work. The very process of thought is a ritual or ceremony in which, like a skilled alchemist, he revives memories of childhood and youth, symbols, pots and pans, as if they were objects of desire or cult objects or both at the same time. He gives them patinas that bear messages: the bronzes and golds of the sacred, the steel of industrial progress. The result is a sort of equilibrium between antiquity and the avant-garde, chaos and order, harmony and upheaval, emotion and suspense. Only the skill of a poet can harmonize all these elements in a work of art with the certainty that there are no untruths in his discourse. The power to convince that is characteristic of Gupta’s work is only possible through his essential commitment to his work […].”

This vision is reinforced by the social changes that have taken place in India over the past few decades, which have encouraged poor, rural families to migrate to urban areas. In "The Imaginary Order of Things" this nomadic lifestyle is depicted through the use of elements and utensils of a highly symbolic content, as is also the case with the boats that transport these families’ possession when they migrate and which thus represent a space for housing an entire life (All in the same boat, 2012-13).

These migrating families take with them their pots and pans, kitchen recipients, bowls, plates and numerous other objects. Far from their normal domestic setting, these objects reflect the daily life of thousands of Indian families and have a markedly cultural character with regard to the materials of which they are made and the way they are used (Ancestor cupboard, 2012; Family Nest No. 3, 2012; and The imaginary order of things, 2012-13).

Another idea related to the use of these objects is the meaning that they have within a religious society. Food, the way of preparing it, the episodes in Hindu rituals, even the times for eating and the acts associated with sitting down at table are all implied in Subodh Gupta’s work. The objects and containers are shown as empty, emphasizing that the importance of cooking implements is “not just social but also religious and ideological.”

About Artist Subodh Gupta

Subodh Gupta was born in 1964 in Khagaul in a poor rural area of Bihar in northern India. He studied painting at the College of Arts & Crafts in Patna between 1983 and 1988. His work is represented in leading private and public collections and he has been the subject of numerous exhibitions around the world. Among recent solo exhibitions are: Spirit Eaters at the Kunstmuseum Thun in Switzerland; Line of Control, at the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art in New Delhi (2012) and at the Sara Hildén Art Museum in Tampere, Finland (2011; A glass of water at the Hauser & Wirth gallery in New York (2011); Et tu, Duchamp at the KÖR am Kunsthalle Wien Project Space Karlsplatz, Vienna (2011);Take off your shoes and wash your hands at the Tramway in Glasgow, Scotland (2010); and Subodh Gupta. Faith Matters at the Pinchuk Art Center in Kiev, Ukraine (2010).

In addition to the present exhibition at the CAC Málaga, the first major retrospective on the artist is currently being prepared at the National Gallery of Modern Art in New Delhi for February 2014.

For more information on the artist, visit:

Source CAC Málaga

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