Marcel Duchamp was most certainly unaware that in inventing the principle of the “ready-made”, the transformation of the everyday object through the sheer will of the artist into a work of art, he was opening up a huge realm of possibilities for the expression of visual artists the world over.
More specifically, artists of non-Western origin find in it the means to erect a bridge between their culture of origin and the globalized 21st century. Hence there are two key names among the star practitioners of the spirit of the ready-made: the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei (born in 1954) and the Indian artist Subodh Gupta (born in 1964).
The latter is the subject of an exhibition at Monnaie de Paris, a new venue for contemporary art in the capital, where he is exhibiting thirty-odd artworks from various periods.
The artist notes the ubiquity of the ready-made method in contemporary society. “Today we even eat ready-made, with pre-prepared meals, and its usage in the art world has never been so widespread.”
But what gives Subodh Gupta extra power compared to the mass of artistic production is his spirituality.
It doesn’t conform to any church but is rather a way of looking at the world and at people with respect and goodwill.
Thus Subodh Gupta is best known for his technique of creating sculptures from stainless steel kitchen utensils used in India.
The piece that is most emblematic of this kind of work is “Very Angry God”, a four-metre-high accumulation of pots and milk cans in gleaming metal arranged in the form of a skull.
It’s as though the artwork embodies the fatal punishment that would strike down upon doomed men. In the building’s courtyard Gupta created the “People Tree”, a tree made out of steel from which utensils are hung. The artist points out that the tree can resemble certain lives. “It glitters in the sun, but if you touch the objects hanging from it they are empty and cold.”
The artist was born in a small village in Bihar, and he still has a certain nostalgia for this period of his life. He made a cast of the door to his childhood home. The cast is presented here in gold, as though straight out of a dream, but it doesn’t open and leads nowhere.
The spiritual Subodh also sees in the depths of the worn cooking pot a kind of representation of the cosmos. As though every trace of human existence was an entire planet of its own. He has created a new series of remarkable pieces, of which Monnaie de Paris gives all too small a glimpse.
He has spoken about his new series of works, which were displayed in a fabulous exhibition a few months ago in Mumbai. We spoke about it in January 2017: https://judithbenhamouhuet.com/report/subodh-gupta-a-complete-metamorphosis-for-the-work-of-the-indian-art-star/
In this work the metal, worn with all the scratches of constant use, can resemble a celestial eye. Light passes across its surface. It is powerful. Like the metal gongs which sound in the neighbouring room.
Until 26 August. www.monnaiedeparis.fr
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