Saturday, 12 March 2016

Feeling Potty About 'Invisible Reality'

Confession; for someone who actively attempts to avoid pots, saucepans and baking trays involved in everyday life activities such as cooking I find them remarkably exciting as aesthetic objects. And let’s face-it, under the functionality of ‘art’ almost anything can become the item of consideration...

A celebration of surfaces, worn, burnt and brandished from a lifetime’s worth of cooking and scrubbing; the identity of sustenance past. A compendium of chrome, 50 shades of grey they glisten. A variation of vessels; big pans, small pans, kettles, buckets, karahi, woks and lids! So forgive me for sounding a bit potty, but the South West deserves to go mad for Subodh Gupta’s latest exhibition of suspended saucepans amongst other works on show in, ‘Invisible Reality’ at Hauser and Wirth, Somerset until May 2nd 2016.

'Chanda Mama door ke' (2015) Found aluminium utensils, fish string, steel. 107 x 191 x 191"
This work (pictured above/opp), titled ‘Chanda Mama door ke’ (From Far Away Uncle Moon Calls) is one of the more recognisable as being Sibodh Gupta’s work; it features the Indian born artist’s now signature saucepans which he has been using to make large scale suspended sculptures for almost three decades. Though nearly all of Gupta’s work involves using everyday materials, “use of functional and found objects relating to his home country, drawing on both cultural and social shifts as well as considering these objects as vessels with personal and geological histories” (but more on that later...) Here at Hauser and Wirth, Somerset they collectively form a giant suspended pot. They seem to defy gravity despite their weight and also suspend themselves in time as though mid-fall hanging silently and suspenseful in the wait for a crash that is never going to happen.
The everyday in this work is pleasingly recognisable as individual components but in a context that feels strange and unfamiliar; suspended as both small individual components each with their own history (and debatably beauty) but all part of a larger than life whole that alludes to something bigger than the sum of their parts.  Together they become the giant pot, a nebula or constellation of stars, an explosion, what is created is something more unreal than the mundane circumstances of their origin. The vessel, the pot, the jar and the saucepan also all having symbolic connotations with the feminine, the womb and links with ideas of creation, which are all rather grand and bigger concepts than the humble saucepan.

“highlighting the differences between our mortal lives and the mysterious cosmos beyond...He explores the connectivity between the two, how great meaning can be found in the everyday...”

That last statement echoing what I have felt/said for years....It should come as nothing new to those who have had to listen to me! I suppose the only difference being that ‘seeing’ meaning in the everyday and being able to communicate it in my art work are two quite different things and certainly outlines one of the challenges or ambition of what I’ve been trying to achieve. Back to Gupta however, this idea literally resonates throughout the exhibition and in the work, ‘Touch, Trace, Taste, Truth’ greets you aptly as you enter the exhibition in the form of what at first appears to be a gigantic yellow gong! Resist the temptation to touch! 
'Touch, Trace, Taste, Truth' (2015) Brass, steel, barbed wire. 120 x 120 x 64"
Beautifully simple and it isn’t until you peer around the other side that you realise it is in fact a brass pot suspended on its side (its bottom facing you as you come in, Oo-er!). I read somewhere in an article online that this piece and Gupta’s work in general attempts to, “Aggrandise that which we fail to acknowledge...” which again is fairly self-explanatory, but is a very effective way of justifying Gupta’s use of scale both in the literal sense (these works are mostly huge) but also the metaphorical of taking something meagre and making it something much more confrontational and profound. They almost swallow you up! It’s interesting for me personally because when I was researching artists that used the everyday in their work I mostly looked to the American Pop Artists and Abstract Expressionists as artists who blew-up (made big) egg whisks, car tyres, umbrellas and so on; but it had always felt, particularly with Pop Art (with the exception of Jim Dine), that it was too ‘throw-away’, commercial and embroiled in the visuals of advertising for it to truly link with what I was doing by drawing big tools that were a lot less slick than all of that work. Looking further East at artists like Mona Hatoum (who incidentally has a show at the Tate later this year) and probably Subodh Gupta (who I had previously always overlooked) offer a more meaningful approach to everyday objects that possibly would have fitted with my work more had I explored it further. It is that distinction between the mortal and the mysterious that is certainly something to think about.  

'Pressed for Space I' (2015) Aluminium, fabric, resin. 25 x 43 x 3"
You can see where Gupta’s training as a painter early on in his career has influenced his new work in the series, ‘Pressed for Space’ (also on show) where the celebration of surface in the pots and pans is emphasised at its most clearest. The pans are literally pressed ala Cornelia Parker style into the formal rectangle that denotes ‘art’ in the same way the plinth has traditionally done for sculpture. In these we can easily see the wear and texture of the metal pans, though not as easily recognisable for what they originally were they have become more abstract, formal elements; essentially, a painting made of saucepans! In-between the gaps are tightly packed fragments of coloured cloth which add some colour to the composition as well as allude to the biographical element in the work and Gupta’s Indian heritage. The title ‘Pressed for Space’ may also be a reference to living conditions as well as a sense of re-using, not wasting these objects after they’ve gone into disrepair. The resulting ‘image’ viewed like a landscape takes the idea of the romanticism of a landscape painting with the romanticism of the secret inner-lives of these objects that have now been crushed but like the surface of skin or the landscape forever retain the marks of their past histories. [Hence the archaeology comment mentioned earlier.]

'There is nothing outside the text' [detail] (2013). Terracotta jar, wire, steel.
That mentality continues in the piece, ‘There is nothing Outside the Text’; a large terracotta jar bears the scars of once being broken and presented now fixed, held together with wire and a couple of g-clamps. We’ve been here before, they are the ‘cracks that let the light in’ and a whole bunch of metaphors more that make walking around this exhibition like going to a poetry slam. That is what makes this exhibition all so blissfully accessible allowing for multiple interpretations but using archetypal symbols that help guide that meaning to more universal concepts or ideas. Some of the work I have deliberately left out also touches upon environmental ideas, such as the show’s equally immersive central piece, ‘Invisible Reality’ and ‘Specimen No. 108’ so there’s still plenty of excitement to discover should you go see it for yourselves. I’d recommend you do, this is by far the best exhibition Hauser and Wirth Somerset have done to date and sets a president for what is going to be a year of 'the everyday'...More details of which will be coming here very soon!

Subodh Gupta, 'Invisible Reality' is on at Hauser and Wirth Somerset until May 2nd 2016


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