Subodh Gupta tells Reema Gehi why bartans figure in so many of his paintings...
Delhi’s highly-feted artist Subodh Gupta was in the city for the preview of the Saffron Art online auction. Currently, his work is up for sale so as to contribute to the Bihar flood relief fund. Subsequently, Gupta will participate in a group show at London’s Serpentine Gallery. The 44-year-old artist is aware that his artworks are considered blue-chip investments.
On a gently cool evening, Gupta discusses the current state of affairs concerning art:
Why do you feature kitchen utensils in your works (these were excessively used in the Still Steal Steel exhibition at New York’s Jack Shainman Gallery)?
See, 80 percent of our population in the country is in the poor and lower middle class belt. The utensils are symbolic of their lives. Besides, I was born in a traditional Hindu family in Bihar, where the kitchen is as sacred as the prayer room. I grew up with a paramount love for food. So, I use utensils as an integral part of my artworks. My artworks are simple and basic. In the past, I’ve even used material like cow dung, and objects like bicycles and Ambassador cars.
What inspires you?
The day-to-day life of a common person. In principle, I don’t make political art. I stand for unity.
Aren’t you amazed at the amount of money some investors are ready to shell out for your art?
(Laughs) Well, not really. Five years ago, when my artworks started to sell for rather steep prices, I understood that it wasn’t just the art market going through an all-time boom.. the other markets were also doing as well. India was going through a transformation. For instance, a decade ago, a car was considered a luxury. Today, it’s a necessity.
Has the market meltdown affected the sales of your artwork?
The galleries would know better. Honestly, I have never been concerned with the sales. I work constantly, irrespective of the market scenario. When I started off more than two decades ago, my art didn’t sell. Then came a point, when it started selling at tremendous prices. Tomorrow even if they don’t sell, I’ll still continue to work. I can’t alter my work pattern according to the money market. Many of the ‘unserious’ artists, swayed by the enormous sums of money involved, will perhaps move away.
Do you feel an affinity to any other artists?
Some of the works by my contemporaries like Atul Dodiya, Jitish Kallat, Chintan Upadhyaya, Riyas Komu, Sudarshan Shetty and my artist wife (Bharti Kher), have had an influence over me.. they are my friends and ‘gurus.’
Why did you choose to become an artist?
Just like the Cavemen of the Early Ages, I understand only one language, the language of the art. I don’t think I would have been good at anything else.