Saturday, July 20, 2013

Artistic twist to a traditional fishing boat

Following its successful and critically-acclaimed presentation at India’s Kochi-Muziris Biennale, a monumental sculpture by Subodh Gupta is now on view at Savile Row gallery of Hauser & Wirth, for the first time ever outside India.

‘What does the vessel contain, that the river does not’ by the internationally celebrated artist is inspired by Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī, the 13th century Persian poet. An accompanying essay explains: “The ancient Sufi philosophy embedded in Rūmī‘s poetry speaks eloquently about the idea of the microcosm – the containing of an entire universe within the human soul. With this large-scale work, Subodh Gupta too creates a microcosm containing one person’s entire existence, bundled together and crammed into a vessel which appears as if it’is about to set sail.”

A traditional fishing boat so typical of the southern state of Kerala, measuring over 20 meters, it straddles the whole stretch of the exhibition space. Filled from bow to stern, the boat incorporates chairs, beds, a bicycle, fishing nets, window frames, plastic jars, cans, cooking pots/pans, suitcases, and an old radio. For the artist, it ceases to be merely a humble mode of travel, but has transformed into an extension of the larger paradigm associated with human survival, struggle, sustenance and livelihood.

Renowned for his usage of found, commonplace materials, he explores complex cultural dislocation evident in an era of shifting powers and also personal histories. Themes of economic growth, materialism and emigration are conveyed through ordinary objects. Steel lunch boxes, thali pans or bicycles reflect the artist's personal life and memories, apart from dealing with the Indian way of life and everyday culture.

The mass-produced utensils have played a significant role in the artist’s creative processes. His ‘What does the vessel contain, that the river does not’ looks to evoke those conflicting feelings of movement and stability, belonging and displacement, exploring the liminal space existing between these states of being! Subodh Gupta’s ‘What does the vessel contain, that the river does not’ courtesy Hauser & Wirth is on view until 27 July, 2013.

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