ICONOCLAST

Review by Amrita Varma
February 15, 2014

 

Everything is Inside
Subodh Gupta
Curated by Germano Celant
January 17–March 16, 2014
NGMA, New Delhi

The works by Subodh Gupta at the National Museum of Modern Art are a celebration of one of the seminal artists who have changed the Indian Contemporary art scene internationally. This is very evident with the bandwidth of works displayed across three venues within the museum premises and the kind of reception they have got.

Giagantic sculptures spill over in one hall along with the canvases, which Subodh is known for. In this section lies a work called Seasons which reminds one of the rural  land where the village tailor would sit under a tree with his sewing machine.Mangoes strewn atop the machine’s working area is a reminder of the ripe mangoes which were plucked in the hot summer and one could gather around and eat those mangoes and chat with the companions under the proverbial village tree, a center point, a gathering where the tailor and the barber would continue there business and life went on at its own merry pace. It is almost as if Subodh reminiscences those cherished moments which are never to come back with the changing over exposed world where everyone is on a run.

It is not just this sculpture but one sees the reflection of Subodh’s roots in most of his work weather it is the oil dung cakes inside the central hall, the tiffin carriers- a symbol of a working man’s eating practice, the pails of milk or the local taxi or rickshaw. One realizes that what made Subodh exceptional in his artistic practice was the fact that he explored his roots and brought out the dimensions of what was India through the use of utensils and daily objects which speak volumes of the lives lived through them. This is apparent in the work ‘ This is not a fountain’ where under the leaking taps are used utensils of all types, battered with the run of life and still used in the chaos that the world throws out at it.

There are some works which may not hit the Indian public that hard as they are used to seeing the visuals, but even there the conceptualization and the titles re visit the analogies and contexts.

Known for his cutting edge renditions  of life which slip into your mind and catch you unaware as you come closer and look at his works even though  one may have been drawn to by either the sheer size and the gloss of the form, Subodh is a master story teller. The comment is astoundingly clear in insight and yet gentle in its approach slowly settling in. The multiple layers with which the imagery works has also got something to do with the titles of his works which are an integral part of his working practice. Each title clears the dust from the mind’s mirror and one feels immersed within the work in a renewed sense. To be able to do that and to bring out dialogue in such myriad ways is something Subodh has to be commended for.

Each work has a certain sensibility with the object it uses to portray the content of what Subodh has to say. One can also see Subodh’s exceptional skill at using metals like brass to make objects like the mangoes we talked of earlier, look almost real. Its incredible that Subodh’s art has reached such a level of precision.

There are numerous works one can talk about and to be fair quite a few take your breath away. However, there is the big metallic tree in the courtyard with a thick bark and senewy arms of shiny utensils reaching out horizontally. When one stands under it one forgets it is not natural.

It seems as if the roots and the tree with all its branches is a real entity, stylized yet real. It talks of the wisdom of ages and the timeless need for nourishment and protection. This recent work brings one back to Subodh’s childlike obsession on the daily meal and in this work one feels the solidity of his art and life. We have seen some dips in his work in recent years but these become negligible when one looks at the magnanimity of the show here and the brilliance of a whole array of good and some very exceptional works on display. It is very clear that there are few parellels, which exist in having contributed so keenly to Indian Contemporary Art and none who have worked so extensively at their own artwork as one sees here.

For his efforts at bringing India to the world and creating a vibrant visual language from daily life with the skill and mind Subodh possesses, this show is a tribute to his extensive contribution to Indian art and a coming back home of sorts. A must see for all, it is an education on its own.

 

 


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