To reinvent obsessions
The main strength of artists lies in their ability to reinvent identical obsessions. We are familiar with Subodh Gupta’s work through his installations – accumulations of metal kitchen utensils that have become the calling card of one of India’s leading contemporary artists.
But Subodh experienced an existential crisis and in 2016, as part of an exhibition that I had the opportunity to see in Mumbai, he produced a new repertoire of extraordinary monumental artworks. In my opinion, this work dealt with the power of sound, the force of light, the magic of illusions and the failure of man (see the 2016 report).
Representations of the cosmos
In this sense it should be acknowledged that while his works, made from an overwhelming array of used cooking pots, could be seen as readymades fitting with Indian daily life, it was on this occasion that I understood that – for the artist – they are primarily conceived as representations of the cosmos. The traces left by fire on steel represent a planet of sorts, telling the life story of each person and what they ate (see his explanations on the occasion of his 2018 exhibition at the Monnaie de Paris).
Spiritual side of food
At the Art Basel fair in Switzerland in 2017 he organized a huge feast free of charge in the middle of the “Art Unlimited” great hall.
Now he is confined to the outskirts of Mumbai in Gurgaon. He says he has resumed work on one of his parallel projects. On the spiritual side of food…
According to Subodh Gupta, this is a time for retreat and reflection.
Cook book and Bihar
In this period of limbo he is returning to a project he began two years ago, an artist’s book/cook book. The project includes videos, drawings, photos, texts and also quite simply recipes from his childhood in Bihar. This was where the Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment. According to him, it was after this event and the visits of many monks from other countries that recipes developed which were unique for India, like dumplings.
He refers to the book “Cooking the World” by Charles Malamoud, the French historian of religions and expert on India, to explain how food has an undeniably spiritual dimension in Hindu mythology.
“We must take a step back right now and think about every aspect of our lives.” He believes that there will be hardships to come. But he thinks that introspection is necessary on an individual level, while governments should be thinking about those who are most vulnerable.
Subodh Gupta takes the view that what is happening today must not be forgotten. Lessons from a major crisis.
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