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Updated: November 27, 2009 16:40 IST

Man of steel

RANA SIDDIQUI ZAMAN
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MAMMOTH Subodh Gupta's
MAMMOTH Subodh Gupta's "Line of Control".

Well-known artist-sculptor Subodh Gupta on his works.

Who thought mundane things like a handful of mangoes, stainless steel utensils, cardboard boxes, wires, tables and chairs would fetch Subodh Gupta almost a cult status in the art fraternity, especially abroad? Subodh rapidly drew the attention of art lovers a few years ago when his “Saat Samundar Paar”' went under the hammer for Rs.3.4 crores in the Saffronart autumn online auction.

His “Line of Control” consisting of Indian cooking utensils and a colossal mushroom cloud constructed entirely of pots and pans, was shown in Tate Triennial at Tate Britain in October this year. His “Very Hungry God”, a skull made of stainless steel utensils, brought immense response from European countries. His obsession with shiny Indian cooking vessels spread like a fire in the jungle.

Soon his other works like “Doot”, a life size aluminum cast of an Ambassador car, “Cheap Rice” which had a life size rickshaw made of brass utensils and metal, “Across Seven Seas”, that portrays a conveyor belt with luggage cast in bronze and aluminum, and his series “Still Steal Steel” – photorealistic paintings of kitchen utensils falling and moving in space, became the talk of the town.

Now, Subodh is participating in Brisbane Triennial and lecturing in Hong Kong on his works.

The seed

Subodh's works not only raised curiosity for the use of medium but also the story behind them. The 42-year-old native of Mohalla Chhoti Badalpura, Patna, unravels the mystery behind his penchant for shiny utensils. “When I came to Delhi in 1991 to explore my horizon in art, I used to do my own cooking. The best ideas come while you are doing your regular chores at home. I wanted to do something different. Utensils became my medium and fortunately, they clicked too. Though an artist never chooses a medium to people's liking, but I was just too lucky to have hit their attention.”

Youngest among three sisters and two brothers, Subodh's father died when he was a child and his two brothers took care of the family. Much later, Subodh left for Delhi searching for a wider horizon.

A sensitive soul, and himself a migrant, he felt the pain of migration and economic disparity among people in his home town. Hence, they found expression in his works like “Return Home” and “Across the Seven Seas” where he uses baggage trolleys of modern airports that allude to the grim historical reality of migration from India, especially his home State Bihar. It attracted people from across the globe. Apart from that, Subodh's videos and oil and acrylic paintings are never free of nostalgia, with Indian streets and everyday objects as reoccurring symbols.

But now, his new works are getting different. For instance, a three-dimensional reworking in bronze of Duchamp's mustachioed Mona Lisa that is showing at Hauser & Wirth, U.K., hints at his relation with European countries.

Agrees the artist, “Art is same all over the world. Now I keep on thinking on how to tell ‘my' story in ‘their' language.” His next work is a nine feet tall Durga idol cast in bronze which he is going to showcase at a show in Ukraine. He explains, “We have a ‘parampara' of making images. It is our ‘story' and a part of ‘our' culture. I am trying to tell this story through a language they understand.”

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