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Artist Profile3
A conceptual artist driven by socio-political and basic human concerns
Sudarshan Shetty is one among the young contemporary Indian artists who are drawing attention internationally with their talent and skills. He looks to break free from traditional iconography, or invent and use it in innovative ways. His vivacious visual idiom is largely focused on incongruous assemblages juxtaposed in order to explore new possibilities of meaning and perspective. Known for his large-scale, ambitious sculpture and installation based works, he is also a prolific painter.

An incongruous association of objects that might bear different meanings is intended on his part to form new meaning and in the process, create an abstract space for exploring the dark underbelly of the human-object relationship, the duality of free will as well as the inertness of things. His work hinges on a creative mix of intense observation and wit. Grasping the latent meaning or meaninglessness of it seeks power of observation on the viewer’s part. He takes apart ubiquitous objects without dismantling them, and decodes them, by revealing their inherent mechanical being. Looking to experiment with found objects in a wide array of media, he may combine the diverse forms in curious object-assemblages. The intent is to create an emotionally charged experience for the viewer. About his usage of objects that tend to garner a life of their own – simultaneously, being alive and futile, he quips: “I look for the lost body inside.”

Sudarshan Shetty’s mechanical installations, which revolve around the near-precise play of his sculptures, too, carry no value, he emphasizes. According to him, they simply are spectacles in themselves and collapse under the very spectacles once displayed. They stand for the meaninglessness of the ironic situation and he is constantly grappling this contradiction through his works. His 2006 stainless steel dinosaur cozying up with a Jaguar convertible is also emblematic of his oeuvre, capturing all that his charged installations stand for: monumental scale, the kinetic aspect of inert objects, mechanical repetition, anachronism, irony and death. Among his other acclaimed masterpieces are ‘House of Shades’, commissioned by Louis Vuitton and ‘The More I Die, the Lighter I Get’, a mechanical installation at Tilton Gallery, New York.

Seeking inspiration from VW Beetle childhood toy cars, his most recent installation at the Vancouver Biennale, alludes to multitudinous references: iconic combustion engine vehicles entombed and dated as artifacts. The piece draws our attention to the environment degradation owing to the combustion engine by putting each vehicle into a coffin-like box, on view as a museum relic or artifact. In ‘History of Loss’ the casts of model aluminum Volkswagen Beetle cars are showcased in clear plexiglass boxes stacked in repeated rows - each marked with a date. The replicas refer a childlike desire, and sheer nostalgic memory. The artist has diligently cast each individual model, identical, perfect and pristine, to deliberately drop them one by one from around 300 feet with the intention of damaging each one. Elaborating on the piece, he has stated: “The cars were manually smashed after being cast from a single mold, hence representing the notion of their impending crash as an event. The dates on the vestibules stand for those of possible crashes. However, they really represent the dates to the deadline that I had in which to finish the work. That was done in 42 days.”

His latest solo show ‘This too shall Pass’, first of an ambitious series at the newly renovated historic Bhau Daji Lad Museum in Mumbai, connects to the intriguing idea of the museum space where objects that represent a bygone era are expected to rest. However, these objects are evolving and constantly changing their meaning. In fact, this happens to be a running thread in his work. When he makes objects, he weaves the sense of the ephemeral into them. It largely plays on our desire to make something spring back to life as well as apparent sense of futility in dealing and negotiating with the realm of objects we build around ourselves.

Among his other recent select solos are 'From Here to There and Back Again', Ierimonti Gallery, Milan (2010); Galerie Daniel Templon, Paris (2009); 'Leaving Home', and Galerie Krinzinger, Vienna, (2008). Some of his significant group shows are 'Looking Glass: The Existence of Difference' by Religare Arts Initiative (2010); 'In Transition: New Art from India', Richmond Art Gallery, Canada (2010); 'India Contemporary', GEM, Museum of Contemporary Art, Hague; 'In The Mood For Paper', F2 Gallery, Beijing; For Life: The Language of Communication', Tilton Gallery, New York (all in 2009). His recent participations include 'FIAC 2010', Paris represented by Galerie Krinzinger, Vienna; 'The 11th Hour', Tang Contemporary, Beijing; 'On the Road to the Next Milestone', Herning Museum of Contemporary Art; 'Contemplating the Void, New York, NY (all in 2010). Apart from a Residency courtesy The Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh (2007), he is a recipient of Charles Wallace India Award (1999): and Sanskriti Award (1997).

Explorative in medium and well as material, Sudarshan Shetty tries to fathom the trajectories of human history, personal and social memory and desire, to conceive an eclectic post- modernist vocabulary. Elaborating on his artistic intentions, the artist has stated: “I often find myself delving into and drawing from the unspoken, or in many cases the socially understated, which ticks beneath the surface of all human interactions. The artist relishes and embraces this predicament and revels in it.” According to him, his work carries an apparent undercurrent of entertainment. He often establishes the latent connection between art and entertainment as he likes ‘to entice viewers into his work with the scope for entertainment and then gradually carry them to other levels of discourse. ‘I wish to bring back the spectacle,’ he quips.

Summing up his thought process as an artist, he reveals: “I’ve always been fascinated by how things stand, the structural aspect and, in the process, challenge the notion of seriousness of the material.” He is interested in the idea of absence - a human absence - of being elsewhere. “I think most of us are condemned to be elsewhere. I try to define this space with familiar objects, to create a dialogue between them, which may reveal some truths about my own life to me. I find this to be the best way for having a true communication possible with the world at large,” he concludes.