Subodh Gupta’s still lifes- My village

Think still life think Georges Braque and Giorgio Morandi. This millennium brings Subodh Gupta and the still life. In a historic exhibition and fund raiser for artists, Subodh Gupta and Bharti Kher will bring together 9 signature works for raising money for artists under the title Pledge. In this suite of 9 works are two stunning oil on linen works entitled My Village I & II.

Subodh goes sparse in these two works- he takes his rudimentary vessels adds a few autumnal strokes and creates two deeply modernist works that look more like an exploration of reducing his own radical experimentations that happened in painting to ‘a kind of shorthand’. In both these works one a brass toned and the other in steel and brass, it is as if he has absorbed the banalities of modern life and reproduced them in still life as uncanny objects laden with atmosphere and mood.

While the title My Village has a rustic resonance, these two still lifes are exemplary pieces that bring alive Leonardo da Vinci’s adage of

‘ Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.’

Indeed Subodh’s still lifes with vessels have about them a subtle sophistication that celebrates both antiquity and the beauty of form. Each object Subodh chooses to paint is hidden with meaning. He also adds surreal strokes into the glistening embers of the vessels. In more ways than one, this is an echo of the past it brings back days of yore and art history as well as the present because vessels are always in use across generations in kitchens the world over. While they belong to his own vocabulary we go back to the early years of the last century.

When Surrealism emerged in the bohemian Paris of the 1920s, it was a revolutionary philosophy based on the idea that the mind had a limitless capacity to imagine, dream and invent.

This is what Subodh does-he proves that an artist must go beyond and reinvent to create a new language. The frame is what captivates too. Set against a backdrop of a coarse gunny bag texture in linen it speaks of a rustic timbre as it reminds us of rice sacks. Forms and textures echo and reverberate throughout the compositions, creating a poetic dialogue between the objects. Still, life must provide an aesthetic experience and this is what both these works give us in a minimalist sort of way. “ I have made large paintings of still life over the past two years,”  says Subodh in an exclusive. “ These two small paintings have been created just for this exhibition.”

Peter Nagy of Nature Morte reflects on the still lives and states:

“ The strength of these paintings resides in their simplicity. The trompe l’oeil metallic vessels contrasted with the raw linen backgrounds leads one to ponder the humble and interrogate the nature of reflection.”

The daring Modernist Samuel John Peploe who devoted his career to painting the perfect still life wrote in 1929 that ‘there is so much in mere objects, flowers, leaves, jugs, what not-colours, forms, relation- I can never see the mystery coming to an end. Subodh continues this mystery in these two works-a welcoming addition to his corollary of conversations on the vessels that present a nuance of socio cultural connotations and confluences.



Views expressed above are the author’s own.


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