Subodh Gupta: In This Vessel Lies The Philosopher’s Stone

Subodh Gupta: In This Vessel Lies The Philosopher’s StoneImage courtesy of Galleria Continua

Subodh Gupta: In This Vessel Lies The Philosopher’s Stone
Galleria Continua, San Gimignano
From 13 May to 28 August 2017

 

Galleria Continua is pleased to present a new solo show by Subodh Gupta, one of the leading artists on the international art scene today. The project comprises a series of new works – sculptures, installations and watercolours – especially conceived for this show and for the gallery spaces housing it. They explore themes that have always been dear to the artist, and at the same time offer new formal solutions which open up various perspectives of inquiry and interpretation. In so doing, they set in motion a narrative that is simultaneously symbolic, cosmological and enigmatic.

 

Subodh Gupta: In This Vessel Lies The Philosopher’s StoneImage courtesy of Galleria Continua

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While often Gupta, an artist based in New Delhi, uses form and content emanating from an Indian milieu as initial points of reference, these works are far from nostalgic, nativist or even culturally specific. They serve instead as universally relatable ruminations on the physical, the metaphysical, and their interconnections.

 

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The title of the exhibition, In This Vessel Lies the Philosopher’s Stone, is a citation from the writings of the Indian poet Kabīr, from the 15th century, who is one of India’s most celebrated mystics and venerated by Hindus and Muslims alike.

 

Subodh Gupta: In This Vessel Lies The Philosopher’s StoneImage courtesy of Galleria Continua

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Kabīr identifies a humble vessel, a trope for the human body, to be the carrier of everything – the earth, the universe, and the divine. Subodh Gupta’s most recent works are a meditative exploration of both the literal and metaphorical implications of these verses. The quotidian pantry has long been Gupta’s artistic realm where he finds material and meaning. But rather than expressing earthly horrors and delights, he has moved into capturing the cosmic in the everyday, resulting in a body of work that is simultaneously minimalist and exaggerated. For Gupta, the steam that escapes a boiling kettle suggests a new galaxy emerging, the sparks that scatter out of a wood stove appear to represent the birth of new stars, and the metallic banging of a hammer crushing aluminum suggests the celestial big bang. As the domestic is superimposed on the cosmic, astrophysical wonders are minimized to the mundane, and mundane earthly objects out into inter-stellar awe.

 

Subodh Gupta: In This Vessel Lies The Philosopher’s StoneImage courtesy of Galleria Continua

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The phrase paaras or paarasmani, mentioned in the verses by Kabir, refers to an oddly universal mythological object that is able to transmute ordinary materials into precious metals or imbue them with extraordinary powers. The western equivalent to this mystical gem is known as the philosopher’s stone. The power of the philosopher’s stone is uncannily similar to an artist’s power to elevate an ordinary object into a prized possession, simply by rendering it in an artwork. Subodh Gupta’s work is particularly analogous to this alchemical act of transmutation and this is evident throughout his works, most literally perhaps in the work titled Only One Gold, which shows a humble potato seemingly transformed into a lump of gold.

 

Subodh Gupta: In This Vessel Lies The Philosopher’s StoneImage courtesy of Galleria Continua

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While other works in the exhibition are perhaps not quite so literal in their use of the artistic philosopher’s stone, the transformation of something ordinary to something extraordinary is nonetheless quite evident. The alchemical elements used by the artist are brass, steel, terracotta, plaster, stone, and sometimes the objects themselves. Regardless of material, however, Gupta’s aim to transcend the object in order to create forms of majestic beauty, cosmic significance, and astrological import is undeniably palpable throughout the show.

 

more. galleriacontinua.com

 

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