Magazine article Sculpture

Shilpa Gupta: Finding Common Threads

Magazine article Sculpture

Shilpa Gupta: Finding Common Threads

Article excerpt

Interactive and engaging, Shilpa Gupta's works draw viewers in, provoking them to think, take their experience with them, and act. Each object and installation picks up on thought-provoking issues-political, social, and economic concerns that are part of daily life. Combining everyday, innocuous things-balls of thread and string, microphones, soap, stone slabs, mirrors, and books-Gupta brings out interesting nuances that encourage reflection, reconsideration, and the questioning of assumptions. Gupta says, "I use a combination of light and sound and play with the gallery to create an experience for the viewer." This emphasis on interaction sometimes transforms the viewer into a sutradhar, or storyteller. Because there are umpteen possible meanings, each viewer is free to interpret the experience with a personal spin. Gupta relies on these myriad interpretations: "I am generally interested in perception and the translation which takes place-basically, the shiftof information from one place to another."

What sets Gupta's work apart is her use of ordinary, simple materials to create provocative imagery. She strikes this balance by relying on intuition and insight. Sometimes ideas arrive by chance. For instance, in the case of 1:14.9 (2011-12), she explains, "I was in Pakistan for a workshop, and I was being driven back from the border by a friend who recalled the past and how [India and Pakistan] had been one country. It was probably this that sparked offthe idea of the ball of thread." Gupta's hand-wound ball of thread, measuring just over 79.5 miles, is kept on a pedestal inside a glass vitrine. Multiplied by 14.9, the length of the thread corresponds to the length of the actual border between the two countries. An explanatory plaque inscribed, "1188.5 MILES OF FENCED BORDER-WEST, NORTH-WEST/DATA UPDATE: DEC 31, 2007," makes the refer - ence clear. The oval-shaped ball, which took over a month to finish, questions the motivations and effects of manmade borders, though the thread itself can take on many possible meanings. As Gupta says, "There is so much hysteria associated with borders, geography, and mapmaking...[in this case], violence and killing, and all the negativity brought about by partition when the borders were redrawn and separate countries demarcated." When one looks at 1:14.9, it is simply a ball of thread, but on becoming a fence, it takes on many connotations.

Gupta moves with immaculate ease across a wide spectrum of media, including steel and various other metals, flapboards, and fluids. For her, thought and perception are of greater importance than medium. The medium simply happens and is immaterial so long as the thought is conveyed. Speaking of her obsession with materials, she says, "I have used the microphone as a speaker innumerable times. But I strongly feel that when an artist keeps working with one medium, there is a sense of lethargy that sets in. The work tends to become repetitive. So, working with a new medium is more creative and expands your existing repertoire. But then, it is also tough since you have to understand the medium and start working with it from scratch."

Though Gupta's work draws from politics, she states categorically that politics per se is not the basis of her work: "It is more everyday objects and how politics affects our daily lives, so it finds an expression... politics is a part of everyday life and we are a part of it." The cues also come from history: "We construct our past with relevance to the present and construct our present through history." To illustrate the point, Gupta uses the example of the hostilities between Hindus and Muslims that killed 900 people in Mumbai in 1992: "Everything changed after that. You realized after the riots that a particular classmate was not coming back and that it was religion or personal enmity that cost the life. It shows how politics affects our lives at the end of the day."

Gupta's innovative approach to subject matter and viewer engagement makes her work refreshingly different. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.