A vow of art: To bolster the society battling Covid-19

Subodh Gupta and Bharti Kher, established Indian artists, recently organised a fundraiser with nine works that were created to contribute to the efforts of NGOs toiling for Covid relief work.
Artists Subodh Gupta and Bharti Kher have dedicated their studio practices to create works for Covid relief.
Artists Subodh Gupta and Bharti Kher have dedicated their studio practices to create works for Covid relief.
Updated on Jun 06, 2021 05:40 PM IST
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ByHenna Rakheja, New Delhi

Renowned names in the art world, they had been “going to the studio to work for six days a week” for two decades, to conceive and nurture their creativity. But, when the pandemic upturned lives of almost all of us, artists Bharti Kher and Subodh Gupta could not remain untouched! After all, the purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls; as once quoted by Spanish artist Pablo Picasso.

“Watching what was unfolding, and not being able to go out and help... there was a lot of sadness,” says Kher as Gupta adds, “We thought we can’t help everyone, not physically at least, but even if our help is like a drop in the ocean, we’ll do what we can, as artists.” The couple, thus, got to assiduously create what they make best, art, which soon fanned the thought of organising a virtual fundraiser, Pledge, on the website www.pledgebybhartiandsubodh.com. Having sold all the nine artworks, as part of this show, the two have raised about 1 crore to donate to the NGOs Hemkunt Foundation and Goonj, for Covid-19 relief work.

Subodh Gupta’s sculpture Langar, which is made in stainless steel.
Subodh Gupta’s sculpture Langar, which is made in stainless steel.

Mention if they, too, were influenced by what was happening around while conceiving these artworks, and Gupta admits: “What we are suffering right now, even when you are not thinking about, it feels that we are... and your own work surprises you at times.” The spotlight, amid the talk, falls on his sculpture titled Langar, and the artist elucidates how he has made a tiffin sculpture before but never anything on langar, which has found new relevance in the present era due to the Covid-19 meals that have been distributed across the country. Kher, similarly, explains her work named A Small World Together from the series that has collages of bindis. “I am responding very much to how the virus is working, and the idea is that the world is a very small place that you could hold in the palm of your hand. But, literally, one tiny virus that you can’t see with your eye has caused every single country in the world to get affected by it... The world has suddenly become very small, and it connects us all,” she adds.

Bharti Kher’s A Small World Together V, as part of the series by the same name has bindis on maps of various countries and the world, which could be interpreted to how the world has shrunk in the Covid-19 era.
Bharti Kher’s A Small World Together V, as part of the series by the same name has bindis on maps of various countries and the world, which could be interpreted to how the world has shrunk in the Covid-19 era.

It’s “uncanny” how Kher had been in the past developing some of her works, which today resemble a rough structure of the coronavirus, even though the pandemic struck only last year. But ask what helps her express her thoughts, as part of her series A Small World Together, and the answer can be found in maps! The two, all of a sudden, start reviewing each other’s art. Elucidating on Kher’s work, Gupta says, “It’s surprising how Bharti has been working on the maps... as human beings we take the world non-stop and this virus is Nature’s way of pushing us back.” Concurring with Gupta, Kher explicates, “Subodh’s work, A Bouquet of Flowers, is about empathy. In such (pandemic) situation, one always remembers one’s home, family and friends... and that’s exhibited in Subodh’s paintings named My Village I and II.”

Subodh Gupta’s oil on canvas titled My Village I.
Subodh Gupta’s oil on canvas titled My Village I.

The conversation veers towards how deeply Covid-19 affected everyone, causing immense suffering, and how the personal lives of these artists got impacted as well. “What’s incredible, however, is how resilient Indians are. They just reached out to each other and helped. Many of us saw sadness and helplessness in being unable to procure oxygen, medicines, and other essentials,” says Kher, recalling the initial days of the second wave when the Capital was in a mayhem, and adds, “In many ways, we are the privileged ones, and what was happening around, it made me think.” Gupta elaborates, “I’m the youngest one among my siblings, and all four of us got Covid. Nobody, not even one — among all the people who I know — is there who didn’t battle Covid themselves or lost a close one to it. So many doctors have died, I believe about one thousand! So many people have been pouring their heart out, and what’s inspiring amid all this is how the civil societies came forward to help each other.” This is indeed what made the two strongly feel to donate whatever they can, to aid the representatives carrying out such social welfare.

Author tweets @HennaRakheja

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Friday, May 20, 2022