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Subodh Gupta’s Cosmic Corollaries

Subodh Gupta’s Cosmic
Subodh Gupta’s solo exhibition Cosmic Battle unravels like a series of corollaries in conversations that
flit back and forth as he translates the transition of tradition to modernity at Nature Morte in Delhi.
Dhan Mill Compound consists of a maze of a few rooms that emphasize his distinctive use of found,
commonplace objects as he maps the effects of cultural dislocation and paradoxes of patterns and its
cosmic inverse, the unfathomable distance between our mortal lives and a mysterious cosmos. Gupta
has always asked questions from viewers, about what it would mean to address the world’s people as
individuals whom each possess a piece of infinity.
The visual strength of Subodh Gupta’s sculptures has granted him a leading position on the
international art scene. The artist considers each work as an accumulation of histories and
experiences gained on his travels. His recent work goes so far as to evoke the history of reality, subtle
spirituality, and the cosmos in 3 installations and 4 paintings at Nature Morte.
Cosmic Battle II
His signature work Cosmic Battle II, is a spectacle to behold. Suspended from the ceiling,
the large semi- sphere which revolves slowly takes on multiple guises as it interacts with the
space around it. As a viewer one is drawn into its maw, not because of its physically
commanding presence or its overwhelming dimensions, but because of its sheer physicality
of emotive essence. Subodh draws our attention to the physical state of being, its
multifaceted materiality, and its insignia of melding the ephemeral and elusive to become a
concentric cosmic fusion of the wheels of time that find its own milestones in history and
But Cosmic Battle II invites the human gaze to dig deeper as it stands like a spectacle to
behold in darkroom drama. In the everyday realities of life in India – Subodh suggests there
are surreal connections between the inescapably earthy and the ineffably divine, between
India’s masses and individuals. Cosmic Battle II, took one year to create its magnificence.
The alchemical elements and oversized brass handi exemplify his aim to transcend the
object in order to create forms of subtle beauty, cosmic significance, and cultural import.
When Subodh sits and recites Kabir’s poetry in front of it, the entire ensemble becomes a
performative installation.
History in a self-portrait
Laid in a chaotic heap on a table, a pile of used utensils creates a melange of moods of
shared histories and multiple stories of everyday living. At once paradoxical it creates a
consonance of man as a vessel and the pile being a metaphor for experience. The
necklace of small brass handis, the coir, and the discarded railway track wooden planks
all make a heady spectacle.
Subodh explains, “ I have so many memories. I wanted a portrait that had a movement,
life is about travel, we carry our vessels utensils everything with us. I wanted to create a
kinetic sculpture and allow it to breathe. The utensils, the kitchen objects everything is
inspired by the rituals that impacted me while growing up. I thought of the yagna, the
pooja when you put four bricks and begin your ritual. I remember my mother making a
platform with red bricks, drawing rangoli on it, on top of which she placed the utensils.
I believe that my learning, my history my memories were full of these everyday rituals
that were the sites of learning and artistic inspiration.”
Middle class, mundane Materials
The beauty of the impact of this exhibition is in the manner in which Subodh uses mundane
middle-class materials to create an orchestration of everyday idioms and realities of life in
India. In his Cosmic Battle (II), 2017-2019 he uses the culinary cultural symbol of the brass
handi, with steel, pigment, motor, and found the stone. Its momentum of slow time recalls
Sant Kabir’s couplet Iss Ghat mein Paras moti referring to an oddly universal mythological
object that is able to transmute ordinary materials into precious metals or imbue them with
extraordinary powers.
2021-2022 is so reminiscent of Renaissance Masters, he uses bronze, plaster, wood,
steel, and plant. The broken cracks of the torso and its suggestive strength all seem
to exhibit his own understanding of the obsession for the torso by Leonardo da Vinci
and many others.
The 4 paintings in the show are a subtext of his own journey.
The impressionist fervour was so clear the sculptural vignette added the vessels
that complement the garden of flowers. My Village consists of 3 paintings in
small format. A pair of paintings in wine tones of a Torres wine/Jamun fruit have
about them a moody gram mooring. The small handis and the pail all have a
history of their own. Through the 7 subliminal works of art Subodh Gupta
quietly but dramatically addresses dichotomies between traditional values and
the earth’s economic stature. He also exemplifies the beauty and ethos of E.R.
Schumacher’s words when he coined the phrase ‘ Small is Beautiful’ in his bestselling book written so many years ago.
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