In February 2016 Hauser & Wirth Somerset will present a major solo exhibition of new and recent work by Subodh Gupta spanning all five gallery spaces. ‘Invisible Reality’ will bring together a rich collection of sculptures and installations by the New Delhi-based artist, referencing cosmic parallels through his conscious repurposing of daily realities. The works in the exhibition continue the artist’s signature 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. Created over a six-year period, the ambitious new body of work reflects Gupta’s meditative engagement with the intimate patterns and rituals that define the everyday, inherited through a network of collective ancestral influences.
The show’s centrepiece, a re-assembled traditional wood and terracotta house from Southern India, lends the exhibition its title. The large-scale installation is over-illuminated by stark LED lights radiating from within, probing one to speculate on the impenetrable contents of the house. The phosphorescent spill animates the structure, permanently altering its purpose as a residential site and challenging the boundary between the interior and the exterior.
‘Invisible Reality’ (2015) encapsulates the metaphorical potential of many of the works included in the exhibition by highlighting the differences between our mortal lives and the mysterious cosmos beyond. Gupta makes tangible connections throughout the exhibition between the individual and the cosmos, the whole. He explores the connectivity between the two, how great meaning can be found in the everyday, a theme that is central in Gupta’s practice and that is developed further in these new works.
As visitors enter the Threshing Barn and the first gallery space, they will be confronted by a gleaming gong or sun-like apparition. Suspended on its side, the hand-hammered sculpture ‘Touch, Trace, Taste, Truth’ (2015) represents an over-sized cooking pot, with its true character only becoming apparent as you walk around and discover it is hollow. The black void running through the centre is filled with a web of sharp intertwined steel wire, complicating the seductive pull of the piece and introducing a new textural dimension.
Another new sculpture in the exhibition, ‘Chanda Mama Door Ke’ (2015) consists of a cascading ensemble of aluminium utensils, individually suspended from the gallery’s ceiling as if frozen in a decisive moment, caught in an intricate pattern that allows your first perception to be of a single enormous pot. This piece challenges the idea of individual vs mass, identifying how singular objects might get swallowed up and consumed en masse but concurrently make up a constructive whole. The title, ‘Chanda Mama Door Ke’, references a popular Hindi children’s nursery rhyme where a child is having a conversation with the Moon as though it were her uncle or old friend. While acknowledging the distance of the Moon, the child also establishes a natural and homely familiarity with it. Conversely, this larger than life work presents everyday utensils to the viewer in a way that imbues them with a supernatural power, realising something simultaneously familiar and otherworldly.
The Pressed for Space series (2015) introduces a new aesthetic and working process for the artist whilst continuing to utilise his signature material of used commonplace goods. Gupta dwells on the secret inner lives of worn-out vessels, discarded by their users for their state of disrepair, by physically compressing each found object into a sculptural grid interweaved with vibrant scraps of found fabric. With these pieces he is able to collect and reappropriate items in a new and unique way, creating a fused landscape which highlights idiosyncrasies that we may not see or notice in the world and their connection to our subconscious.
In the grounds outside the gallery Gupta will install ‘Specimen No.108’ (2013 – 2015), a hyper-reflective steel Banyan tree. The imposing structure is made up of writhing, silvery arms from which steel utensils hang like fruit. The Banyan tree is woven finely into the fabric of Indian socio-cultural tropes and imbued with a mythic element. However, by labelling it a ‘Specimen’, that too of the number 108 which is considered significant in multiple South Asian religions, the artist gestures towards a scientific distancing from the metallic tree blossoming with utensils. The grounded, earthly symbol becomes something odd and intriguingly extraterrestrial, requiring dissection and further study.