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‘Line of control’ - Subodh Gupta Solo at Arario Beijing
Subodh Gupta is among a generation of young Indian artists whose commentary tells of a country on the move, fuelled by boiling economic growth and a more materialistic mindset. Despite reflecting these changes in their art, the new generation of painters and sculptors are themselves part of the boom.

The 42-year-old has made installations out of manure patties, kitchen fuel for millions of Indian country homes, and painted with dung à la Chris Ofili. In a nine-minute video, ‘Pure’, the artist stands covered in thick layer of bovine excreta that is slowly hosed off in a shower. Gupta says he wanted to play with meanings of "purity", adding: "In Indian villages, cow shit is used for spiritual cleaning like an antiseptic. But this is not true of today's (Indian) cities. I wanted to show that."

His ‘Saat Samundar Paar’ (Across the Seven Seas) recently in spotlight is a series on the much debated theme of migration. These works are supposed to be oblique commentaries on prevailing class inequities. His allusion to the phenomenon of the worker from India's lower classes migrating to the Middle East in particular also has antecedents in the history of the artist's home state Bihar. Impoverished people from the state were exported as bonded laborers to far-flung colonies like Mauritius and the West Indies from the mid-19th century onward.

Though he often dwells on domestic themes, Subodh Gupta has become an internationally renowned artist, being showcased in prestigious fairs like the London's Frieze, Venice Biennale, and shows in Miami, Lille, Japan and Moscow. He is a multi-faceted artist - as a sculptor, installation-maker, video artist and painter, all rolled in one.

A curatorial note sums up the spirit of the show to note: “As an eager and fast-growing middle class opens the way to a global culture, accelerating transformations of all sorts, Subodh Gupta tests the colonial/racial guilt and teases the aesthetic/consumerist desires of the ‘other’ Developed/Western World through his monumental sculptures and installations, created by putting together hundreds of shining stainless steel objects that reflect the short circuit between tradition and change.”

Arario Gallery, Beijing, presents the internationally renowned artist in a solo exhibition titled ‘Line Of Control’. Here Gupta presents an illuminating body of work including installations, stainless steel sculptures and paintings.

His works are littered with references to past and present experiences. Swinging from significant information to seemingly irrelevant motifs, Gupta's constructions weave highly eccentric imaginings with public myths and rituals.

Born in Bihar, once the seat of Buddhist learning in India, the artist has now settled in New Delhi. Mapping his personal and artistic progression, an accompanying note mentions: The artist’s personal journey, from semi-rural country to the capital city, could be an allegory of the India of today, where village life is swiftly giving place to the culture of the capitalist megalopolis.”

Taking an ironic swipe at Capitalism's materialist ethic, Gupta nonetheless portrays the social and economic aspirations of rural communities and lower class Indians with an affectionate compassion.

The title ‘Line Of Control’ converts a blasé media stereotype into a poetic metaphor. Here, a phrase invariably used to describe contested borders between disputed territories from Bosnia to Kashmir is shorn of its limited and limiting geo-political rhetoric to describe that invisible-yet-concrete time-space that exists between want and aspiration; between realization and faith; between dreams and reality; between night and nightmare.

Subodh Gupta’s giant sculpture ‘Line Of Control’ (from which the exhibition also derives its title) symbolizes that uneasy pressure-spot which seeks to liberate mundane tension-ridden reality through a bursting mushroom cloud of kitchen utensils: Wittily proposing, as it were, a cloud-burst of Prosperity, Peace and Harmony.

The artist navigates his chariot of transgressions here in a cathartic pageant –that of a world constantly being lost /destroyed and yet emerging anew, reconfigured, reconstructed from its own debris. By the invocation of the many metaphors of food and its containers, both the sublime and the sensual are never far from Subodh Gupta’s ever hospitable high table.

His work ‘Start.Stop.’ comprises a huge, slowly moving sushi belt fitted with scores of Tiffin boxes. On the one hand, this work talks about food and how it has traveled in time across seas and continents, and on the other, it recalls the obscure destiny of the dabbawallahs of metropolitan Mumbai who manually transports wheel-barrows of Tiffin boxes filled with home cooked food in a fast changing urban reality where industrially packaged foods soon threaten to become the convenient norm. This is a seductive formalization of the ‘moveable feast’.

It presents a seemingly simple work, I Believe You, composed of a pair of well-worn rubber slippers in a shiny steel platter. Whose feet did these slippers once fit? Was he/she a wretched landless peasant running an endless race to the Big City? Or a martyr-without-cause felled by the enormity of his/her own blind belief? Or do they represent the enlightening and enlightened foot print of some saintly soul, a modern day Buddha, perhaps? The exhibition also includes some major canvasses by Gupta depicting stainless steel utensils in chaotic motion interspersed with blobs and ribbons of pure color disrupting the surface of the picture.