Subodh Gupta is the much-discussed artist who has made his presence felt in national and even more so in international circuits of art. The iconic works in this show trace Gupta’s journey from a regional and national cultural identity to a transcultural international one. Using film, installation, sculpture and painting, he uses a post-modern language to address issues of identity, migration, consumption, commodification and representation. Rani, the cow is a symbol from his rural past.
But her slick surface, covered in hot pink at the collector’s request, turns her from nostalgia into pop; it suggests a developing emotional distance that will allow the artist to mine his own past for imagery that is ripe for similar transformations. Bihari and Pure are relatively early works in this section. Here Subodh engages with his regional identity, his ‘Bihariness,’ through direct use of cow dung.
Pure, according to the artist, is one of his landmark works. Played backwards, the video creates a surreal effect as the cow-dung particles creep up to take their place on his body. In the act of cleansing, the self begins to be polluted or purified, depending upon one’s notion of ‘purity’. As the dung-covered artist exits via an elevator, the doors close on his unsettling rural and even primeval presence within the city.