Gam ’s Vivid Artworks on the Life and Legacy of Sankara

Gam ’s Vivid Artworks on the Life and Legacy of Sankara

Pierre-Christophe GAM, The Murder, 2017, Hahnemuhle archival paper, mixed media collage, 60x45

Pierre-Christophe GAM, The Murder, 2017, Hahnemuhle archival paper, mixed media collage, 60x45

Upper Volta was a colony of low strategic importance to France in economic terms, yet she subjected its people to harsh colonial rule. Growing up surrounded by stark inequalities, even after its independence from France in 1960, a young man was moved to pursue social justice: Thomas Sankara. His all-too-short life story remains an inspiration, both across Africa and in his own country, which he renamed Burkina Faso in 1984: “the land of the upright people”.

Sankara’s remarkable life story and his transformation of Burkina Faso during his four short years (1983–1987) as Prime Minister is brought to vivid life in the works of Pierre-Christophe Gam. The Cameroonian-Chadian artist’s mixed media installation, “The Upright Man”, offers a body of work that functions at the crossroads of the political, the personal and the spiritual. It encapsulates Sankara the man, the myth, and the visionary Pan-Africanist. The artist, who was 4 years old when Sankara was assassinated, captures in his works both the perspective of a child seeking the trail of his idol, and that of many contemporary Africans today seeking the truth of a shared past. Gam’s pieces feature certain milestones in Sankara’s time in power, expressed through both Christian iconography and visual symbolism specific to twentieth-century political history, such as the three colours (red, green and yellow) of pan-Africanism. It is an intriguing approach than befits Gam’s own definition of his art practice as that of a modern griot: a West African oral historian and storyteller.

The Battle, 2017, Hahnemuhle archival paper, mixed media collage, 100 x 74 cm, Gam

The Battle, 2017, Hahnemuhle archival paper, mixed media collage, 100 x 74 cm

In his representations of this towering political figure, Gam takes inspiration from a widely spread aesthetic practice in West Africa: commemorative cloths, which are printed textiles often featuring patterns, scenes, and memorial portraits. These colourful textiles, printed for commemorating everything from political campaigns to royal anniversaries, tell stories about people, movements, culture and society. Gam’s techniques include pencil colour drawing, pixel art, photography and digital manipulation; the results of this experimental mix are unique, yet somehow familiar to anyone who sees images mostly through a screen in their day-to-day lives. But to understand the story that these pieces visually narrate, it helps to grasp the significance of Sankara in post-colonial African history.

Some said Sankara’s visions were too grand, for he was impatient with those who insisted that a poor country should not set their sights too high.

Unlike the country’s previous military interventions, Sankara came to power in 1983 in a takeover that was conducted with the direct collaboration of several leftist civilian groups, resulting in a hybrid military–civilian formation at the helm of the country. From 1983 to 1987, Sankara transformed the institutions of the state fundamentally, so that they would cease to protect the interests of the few political elite. His aspirations for his fellow Burkinabé were rooted in social mobilisation and Pan-Africanist aspirations, but took direction from the needs of the majority of people. These included ecologically sustainable development, women’s emancipation, free education, accessible healthcare and community self-help projects. Some said Sankara’s visions were too grand, for he was impatient with those who insisted that a poor country should not set their sights too high. Yet Sankara’s quest was not impossibly utopian. In four years, he demonstrated repeatedly through initiatives that much social, political and economic progress could be made. His assassination in 1987 is widely confirmed by historians as having direct support from France, and other foreign powers alarmed by the Sankara’s policies.

The Temptation, 2017, Hahnemuhle archival paper, mixed media collage, 60x45 cm, Gam

The Temptation, 2017, Hahnemuhle archival paper, mixed media collage, 60x45 cm

Sankara’s strong stance against neocolonial dependency reflected in his programs for agricultural self-reliance, healthcare, and anti-corruption campaigns. From the outset, he also emphasised the emancipation of women as one of his central social and political goals – a rarity for any president in Africa at the time. These social and economic leaps are visualised with strong symbolism and joyful colours in several pieces of Gam’s series: Agricultural Reform, Battle of the Railway, The Emancipation of Women, Education for All and Self-Reliance (all 2017). Each concept is explored in two prints: one featuring Sankara initiating or demonstrating the task at hand, and the second featuring the people of Burkina Faso putting it into action together. A nod, perhaps, to the Sankarist approach to development, which was notable for its reliance on social mobilisation and community self-help.

Although Gam’s works illustrate key points throughout Sankara’s life and political career, there is also a strikingly original interpretative exercise at play: the religious and spiritual undertones to his art. Gam’s framing of Sankara as a Christ-like figure — both prophet and martyr — blurs the lines between the material and the spiritual world, as it does between the political and the personal. This acknowledges the contemporary relevance of West African traditional religions to social and political life, in which the spiritual world is widely accepted to exist in tandem with the physical one, and events in either are able to influence those in the other. Interpreting social and political changes not only for their implications in material reality, but also for their spiritual consequences, is part and parcel of community interactions and day-to-day life in many West African societies. The La Patrie triptych (2017), for instance, includes one mixed media collage featuring the dead Sankara, surrounding by six angelic female figures gesturing to his body, lying Christ-like in the arms of his widow, Myriam Sankara, who radiates a maternal and otherworldly persona reminiscent of the Virgin Mary. The third print in the triptych cements this biblical iconography by presenting the dead Sankara crucified on the cross. The two final works on the other hand, both titled La Resurrection (2017), bring the story full circle; one shows Sankara reawakened, draped in cloth like a prophet emerging from the desert, and the final one features the flag of Burkina Faso — a community of “believers” in symbolic unity under the pan-African colours.

The Resurrection, 2017, Hahnemuhle archival paper, mixed media collage, 74x100 cm, Gam

The Resurrection, 2017, Hahnemuhle archival paper, mixed media collage, 74x100 cm

The artworks’ formal qualities mirror this synthesis of traditional spirituality and modern political experience. Gam’s bright patterns in digital print, with their game-like aesthetic in certain places, make them unmistakably contemporary in their visual language. Sankara is represented in photorealistic style amidst geometric and repeating patterns that at times appear pixelated. All are composed of the same minuscule pattern, printed over and over again: an almost emoji-like head of a smiling African woman holding an abundance of colourful produce atop her headdress. When fused with the political content of the work — which is celebratory of the thoroughly secular, developmental goals of pan-African socialist thought — this Christian religiosity to the works do not remain static. They evolve into another kind of conceit: one that makes use of the familiar connotations of biblical iconography for much of Gam’s audience in West Africa and the world, but implies that this was the short-lived birth of a new “religion” in the form of pan-Africanism and a certain Sankarist humanism.

Tryptique “La Patrie B”, 2017, Hahnemuhle archival paper, mixed media collage, 133 x 100 cm, Gam

Tryptique “La Patrie B”, 2017, Hahnemuhle archival paper, mixed media collage, 133 x 100 cm

Gam’s synthesis of a digital aesthetic, biblical imagery and twentieth-century history is singular, and the result is a retelling of Sankara’s story through visuals that feel universal, youthful and dynamic. This story becomes, quite literally, anything but dead history. Gam paints Sankara garbed in spiritual mythologies to striking effect, but perhaps it is all the more remarkable that in doing so the artist reminds us Sankara was no saint or angel, but an ordinary man — albeit an exceptionally upright one.

Written by Sarah Jilani

Contributor - London

First edition of Bahrain Art Week – Paris opens its doors at the Grand Palais

First edition of Bahrain Art Week – Paris opens its doors at the Grand Palais

“The Legacy and the Contemporary Memory”, the exhibition of Bahraini contemporary artists, takes places at the Grand Palais in Paris on September 13 – 15, 2018. The exhibition, making part of the Bahrain Art Week in France, presents a wide range of thematics, styles, and generations of Bahraini art: from religious art to contemporary social critique, from post-impressionism to digital art, from post-war generation to millennials. 

Since its creation in 2016, Bahrain Art Week, created by Kaneka Subberwal ArtSelect , aims to promote Bahraini contemporary art to meet the needs of an international community of collectors discovering talent. The English, Russian and Indian edition of Bahrain Art Week have already had success in 2016 and 2017: a selection of 15 Bahraini artists has already been presented in London at the Victoria & Albert Museum in 2016 and the Saatchi Gallery in 2017. In the same year, ArtBAB became the participant of the Cosmoscow contemporary art fair in Russia as well as in India during the 2017 and 2018 India Art Fair. Bahrain Art Week was launched soon after the creation of the Art Bahrain contemporary art fair.

“ArtBAB is a platform that connects international galleries with established and emerging artists of Bahrain, widening the outreach to collectors in the region,”

Art Bahrain Across Borders (ArtBAB) contemporary art fair had been created by Kaneka Subberwal under the patronage of Princess Sabeeka Bint Ibrahim Al Khalifa of Bahrain. Curated by Jonathan Watkins and Alistair Hicks, ArtBAB aims at pivoting galleries, artists, and collectors towards the country, establishing a more pronounced connection between Bahraini art and the global art market. “ArtBAB is a platform that connects international galleries with established and emerging artists of Bahrain, widening the outreach to collectors in the region,” states Subberwal. In 2017, ArtBAB saw 60 participants from Bahrain, the UAE, India, Ukraine, France, the USA and others across its three categories: Gallery arena boasting a cluster of international galleries, the ArtBAB Pavilion Artists (with free entry for Bahraini artists), and General Entry Artists. The stellar line-up included New York-based artist Bradley Theodore, known for his paintings Queen Elizabeth and Pyramid, and a piece by Turner Prize-winning English artist Keith Tyson.

ArtBAB 2018 will also see the return of the not-for-profit exhibition space that featured the Floating World exhibition this year with 32 large-scale installations screening films by a great number of international artists. “Floating World made ArtBAB 2017 unique,” says Watkins. “It was a not-for-profit factor in the art fair equation, ambitious in its range of moving imagery by some of the most important international artists working today, with a strong visual appeal. A kind of landscape lounge, it was an environment for all visitors to enjoy.”

The Grand Palais is a large historic site and museum complex located in Paris. The Construction of the Grand Palais began in 1897 following the demolition of the Palais de l’Industrie (Palace of Industry) as part of the preparation works for the Universal Exposition of 1900. For the 2011 Monumenta exhibition, sculptor Anish Kapoor was commissioned to create the temporary indoor site-specific installation, Leviathan, an enormous (ca. 775,000 square feet) structure that filled half of the main exhibition hall of the Grand Palais. 

Kaneka Subberwal invited Corinne Timsit Art Advisory (CT2A) to be co-organizer and co-curator of Bahrain Art Week in Paris.

Founded by Corinne Timsit and Eric Bonici in 2014 in Paris, CT2A is a media, events, and advisory company specialized in the contemporary art comprising two magazines, ARTPREMIUM and CORPORATE ART, an art advisory department, and an immersive online resource – artpremium.com.

17 artists on show at the Grand Palais

Aysha AlMoayyed – Balqees Fakhro – Dr Ahmed Ahmed – Faika Al Hasan – Hala Kaiksow – Sayed Hasan Al Sari – Jamal Abdul Rahim – Mayasa Al Sowaidi – Mohamed Al Mahdi – Nabeela Al Khayer – Omar Al Rashed – Othman Khunji – Rawan Al Hosani – Salman AlNajem – Lulwa bint Abdulaziz Al Khalifa – Marwa Rashid Al Khalifa

Beyond the limits: teamLab digital art exhibition in Paris

Beyond the limits: teamLab digital art exhibition in Paris

The human is a being that often opposes himself to nature. Isolating from the latter, he creates his own world, seeking the security and comfort. Throughout history, he was building his own universe, moving away from nature. But with more significant inventions he was making, the more he missed the natural balance and purity. Thus, he was seeking the restoration of his original relation with nature through art. An infinite number of artists of different epochs tried a various media, returning to primitive creation, refusing the technology and progress in search of art that would allow the spectator to feel himself in the harmony with nature. However, it was finally the technology, an opposition to nature, that allowed some artists to achieve this goal. This is the case of teamLab, a Japanese artistic collective that uses exceptional installations, which can be called, without exaggeration, alive.

Their artworks are immense, not framed and fully immersive. Remaining totally figurative, they represent a diversity of forms and figures of nature, of flora and fauna, and, sometimes, of human individuals too, inviting the spectator to join their vivid world and feel a connection between himself and the nature. Destructing the barrier between the artwork and the spectator, this art envelopes the viewer, makes him a part of its universe of forms and colors, and, furthermore, offers him an opportunity to become its co-creator. teamLab artworks are made by more than 450 people, including artists, programmers, engineers, scientists, architects, and animators, who have been operating together since 2001.

 

 

Their principal instrument for the creation is digital technology: their art involves projectors, touch screens, audio speakers, and scanners; and their principal objective is to form a new type of art, open and interactive. teamLab seeks to escape the limits of ‘conventional art’ and to create outstanding installations, that change our understanding and perception of contemporary creation. Being really impressive, their artworks do not shock the spectator, nor are they causing discomfort. On the contrary, they are trying to remain friendly and attractive, despite their scale and dynamism.

The name of the exhibition of teamLab, which opened on the 15th May in La Villette in Paris, is “Au-delà des limites”, which means meaningBeyond the Limits” — beyond the barriers between the visitor and the artwork, and at the same time, beyond the frontiers of ‘conventional art’. The exhibition assembles in the 2,000 square-meter space the most iconic and new artworks of teamLab, among which you can find an enormous 11 meter-height and 26.5 meter-width interactive waterfall, some installations reproducing the whole saison sycle, or entire digital worlds, created by visitors of the exhibition. As all the artworks exhibited are reacting to the public’s actions, people and art are in dialogue, co-existing in one digital universe. The latter changes significantly because of the public, thereby, “Au-delà des limites” turns into a unique symphony of artworks and people, never the same.

The exhibition meets the public with the works “Graffiti Nature – Mountains and Valleys” (2016) and “Graffiti Flowers Bombing” (2018), a whole ecosystem worlds made by people: they offer to color new animals or flowers on paper and to scan it. The software integrates the digital artwork in the composition, and then the visitor suddenly finds his creation among thousands of flowers, plants, lizards, fish, moving, appearing, vanishing, multiplying across the space. That’s how the visitor discovers from the very beginning that the digital universe, created by teamLab, is playing with him and changes dynamically regarding his actions. Whether he is a wind for flowers or a living being for spirits, the human can always become a co-creator or a destroyer of every artwork, seeking for harmony or chaos.

But sometimes, playing with this astounding universe, the spectator does not notice that he himself becomes a part of an artwork. If you stand apart from the crowd, you can see how people in the light of projectors become an organic piece of several artworks. For an instance, the hall, where the installation “Impermanent Life: People Create Space and Time, at the Confluence of their Spacetime New Space and Time is Born” (2018) is shown, allows the visitor to transform the surface of walls around him and to create his own worlds, that are borning, burgeoning and dying. But it also transforms the creator himself into a part of the artwork, making him to dissolve against the background of the walls. That’s how a human, an omnipresent forceful being, is shown as an indispensable part of this universe he changes and considers to rule.

The exhibition “Au-delà des limites” will be opened in the Grande Halle de La Villette in Paris until the 9th September 2018.

Conversation with Rachel Rekkab founder of UNFOLD Art XChange

Conversation with Rachel Rekkab founder of UNFOLD Art XChange

Rachel Rekkab, the founder of Artem Holdings, answers our questions about her most recent venture, UNFOLD Art XChange, a contemporary ‘think tank’ for creative leaders to connect via their interests in the art world, and to discuss the ever-changing landscape of the art market.

1 – How was the UNFOLD Art XChange project born and since when have you been working on it?

UNFOLD Art XChange as a project was conceived through my ambition to become the largest multicultural art exchanges that will offer unprecedented access to a more diverse audience beyond the art world. The aim was to create new synergies, enabling a fruitful dialogue with potential future partnerships in various areas of human activities, enticing the world’s premier private bankers, financial institutions, government authorities, spatial designers, real estate and hospitality professionals to come together with curators, gallerists, artists, arts organisations, non-profits, public art agencies, museums, private and corporate collectors.
I have been working on developing UNFOLD Art XChange since January 2017, two months after I founded Artem Holdings, the company behind this project.

Photo taken from UNFOLD Art XChange, Public Art Panel on Art Talks I
Left: Theresa Sweetland (Forecast Public Art, Minnesota), Karin Goodfellow (Boston Art Commission & Boston AIR, Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture, Boston), Pauline Kanako Kamiyama (Los Angeles County Arts Commission, Los Angeles), Ben Owen (Minnesota State Arts Board, Minnesota) and Dorka Keehn (Keehn on Art & San Francisco Arts Commission, San Francisco)

2 -Why did you consider UNFOLD Art XChange as a necessity in the region and how did you go about choosing the topics for the two Art Talks?

Jesse Brackenbury (Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy, Boston),

UNFOLD Art XChange was seen as a necessity to foster a stronger arts education in the region on the impact of art in today’s contemporary society.
Art Talks I: Art, Real Estate, and the Built Environment was chosen as an essential topic to kick off UNFOLD Art XChange’s inaugural edition to discuss two critical issues; the importance of public art in the built environment and the role of art in enhancing real estate and hospitality developments.
With Dubai Expo 2020 around the corner and the numerous opportunities for art within architecture and design, it was evident to present the valuable marketing opportunity art offers for both governments and private developers. Beyond its aesthetic beauty, cultural interpretation and general improvement of the urban environment, Art provides high financial returns, and revenue growth by maximizing property values, increasing occupancy rates and attracting tourism to stimulate the country’s economy.

Art Talks II: Evolving Cultures, Developing Collections was chosen as the second topic for UNFOLD Art XChange with two key focus; one on Art, Finance, Wealth and Risk Management and the other on Private, Corporate and Museum Collections. Within the Private, Corporate and Museum Collections, the aim was to discuss critical issues around corporate art, new approaches to heritage, the future of both Private and Public Museums and lastly to understand how private art foundations and other organizations are shaping our local art scene in the UAE.

3. The first edition of UNFOLD Art XChange took place in Dubai this March. Are you planning to organize this across ìn any other part of the region in the Middle East or to expand it to other countries in the world?

With the success of our inaugural edition, Artem Holdings will be launching its second edition of UNFOLD Art XChange’s Evolving Cultures, Developing Collections as a two-part series targeted for Private and Public Museums and Corporate Collectors.

Preceding FIAC (Foire Internationale d’art Contemporain), the first part will be held as a weekend getaway on the 13th and 14th of October 2018 at the Chateau Montsoreau-Museum of Contemporary Art in the Loire Valley in France. It is a closed-door event limited to only 50 Heads of Private and Public Museums and Corporate Collectors comprising a series of panel and roundtable discussions. The second part will then be open to the public to attend and will take place the 12th and 13th of March 2019 in London.

We have also signed a partnership with ArtBab to bring our 2nd Annual UNFOLD Art XChange to Manama, Bahrain in March 2019. It will coincide with the fair, under the patronage of Her Royal Highness, Princess Sabeeka Bint Ibrahim Al Khalifa, Wife of His Majesty, The King of Bahrain, President of the Supreme Council for Women. The dates in March will be announced in due course.

Photo taken from UNFOLD Art XChange, Hotel XChange Panel on Art Talks I
Left: Katherine Gass Stowe (James Company Contemporary Art Projects, New York), Tarissa Tiberti (MGM Resorts Art & Culture, Las Vegas), Peter Mainguy (The Ritz Carlton, Millenia Singapore, Singapore), Paul Bruce-Band (Ellerman House, Cape Town), Roland Duerr (Rosewood Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi), Pierre Yammine (Noon Art Boutique Hotel Apartments, Dubai) and Mona Hauser (XVA Gallery and Art Hotel, Dubai)

 

4 – How do you foresee the development of the art market in the region?

With the continuous support fuelled by the local government investing heavily in art and culture initiatives across the region, I feel the development of the art market in the UAE is very positive.

The opening of the much anticipated Louvre Abu Dhabi, the first universal museum of the Arab world last November, alongside the already established Manarat Al Saadiyat, Warehouse 421, Abu Dhabi’s own NYUAD Art Gallery and Abu Dhabi Art will help to encourage and cultivate a new generation of art collectors for the region and drive the local art scene.

Dubai’s aim to transform the city into an open-air art museum through the establishment of Brand Dubai to help develop public art projects across the city acts as a testament that Dubai is not only looking to highlight the city’s unique character as one of the world’s fastest growing and most diverse cities but to also position Dubai as an emerging cultural hub on the world map.

The recent release of ‘Dubai ArtBank,’ an innovative new model for managing art collections and transacting in creativity and art as bankable assets through a new Dubai Art crypto-currency during this year’s Art Dubai fair also showed Dubai Culture’s response to the ‘Dubai 10X initiative’ which seeks to place Dubai Government entities ten years ahead of the rest of the world in all sectors, propelling Dubai into the future by implementing today what other cities will maybe do in 10 years from now.

Lastly, Sharjah is designated as UNESCO’s “Cultural Capital of the Arab World” and is home to nearly a quarter of all of the UAE’s museums. Popular events such as the Sharjah Biennial and the Sharjah International Book Fair further attests the contribution from the region to sustain and also drive the development of the art market in the UAE.

5 -50% of Fortune 500 companies own an art collection; do you think that large companies based in the region will expand their action getting involved in culture and art programs?

Definitely. Many of the Fortune 500 companies in the region are already heavily investing in arts and culture and showing this involvement through various sponsorships in the region’s pre-eminent art fairs like Abu Dhabi Art and Art Dubai.

However, there are barely a handful of these Fortune 500 companies in the region that owns a corporate art collection. One interesting example of a private art collection transformed as part of a corporate art collection is with Omnicom Media Group (OMG) Dubai office spearheaded by its CEO for the MENA region, Elie Khouri’s passion for collecting art. As a patron of the arts and a member of the Tate Middle East and North Africa Acquisitions Committee and the Moma Director’s Council, Elie places his private collection within his workplace environment as part of the office’s corporate art collection to enhance creativity and to create a greater dialogue among employees. Other notable corporate art collections seen within large corporations in Dubai includes Swiss Private Bank, Julius Baer and German Private Bank, Deutsche Bank DIFC office as well as the region’s leading developer, Emaar who have a good selection of their art collection featured around and in Dubai Mall as well as on Emaar Boulevard. In Abu Dhabi, Mubadala Development Company PJSC, a state-owned holding company, has its impressive art collection featured in two of the hotel properties it owns; Four Seasons and Rosewood Abu Dhabi.

Indeed, Corporate art collections in the region compared to Europe & US are significantly lesser and UNFOLD Art XChange hopes to change this and make corporations in the Middle East more aware about the critical role corporate art collection plays in galvanizing the local art community and developing a company’s brand identity. It was also the reason why UNFOLD Art XChange’s Evolving Cultures, Developing Collections was formed with a focus on Corporate Art to bring on expertise from across the globe to share on the importance of collection development policy and responses to corporate art activities in the aim to foster greater corporate art education in the region.

Corinne Timsit, President of CT2A group and Chief Editor of ArtPremium Magazine and Corporate Art Magazine in conversation with Philippe Méaille, most important collector of Art and Language and President of Cha^teau de Montsoreau-Museum of Contemporary Art in France

 

6- UNFOLD Art XChange invited over 80 speakers from all over the world; is UNFOLD heading to become a referential art talks platform in the art scene?

Yes, UNFOLD Art XChange aims to become a referential art talks platform in the art world and to be known as the leading contemporary art summit and eventually the largest multicultural art exchange for both the art world and for corporations looking to incorporate art or develop an art collection.

7 – Is UNFOLD Art XChange opened to the public or only to professionals?

Both. UNFOLD Art XChange was initially created as a platform opened to professionals. To pre-qualify the quality of both art market professionals and  senior-level management attending, UNFOLD Art XChange charges a delegate fee that is comparably higher to other art talks in the market. UNFOLD Art XChange would like to position itself strictly as a B2B conference and summit platform that brings together industry practitioners from both within and outside the art world.

However, our 2nd Annual UNFOLD Art XChange that will be held in Manama, Bahrain from the 7-9 Marchh 2019 as part of Bahrain’s international art fair, ArtBAB under the patronage of Her Royal Highness Princess Sabeeka Bint Ibrahim Al Khalifa, Wife of His Majesty The King of Bahrain and President of the Supreme Council of Women will be open to the public  to attend and will be complimentary as ArtBAB is our Host Sponsor.

Subodh Gupta at La Monnaie, Paris

Subodh Gupta at La Monnaie, Paris

Subodh Gupta, one of the best-known Indian contemporary artists and master of readymade, is represented this year in Monnaie de Paris with his first personal exhibition in France. This impressive retrospective contains his 30 most famous masterpieces in 6 sections showing the evolution of Gupta’s artistic language. Capable to make extraordinary things with the use of very ordinary items, he is nowadays one of the most remarkable figures of international art scene.

Subodh Gupta was born in 1964 in Bihar, northern India. From 1983 to 1988 he studied Painting in College of Arts & Crafts in Patna. In 1986 he had his first personal exhibition, representing several of his early paintings. And today we know Gupta not as a simple painter, but as an artist capable to work with a great variety of media, from painting to sculpture and from video to performance.

Gupta’s artworks have an easily recognizable individual style due to materials used by artist: metal cookware, pots, pans and other objects of everyday life. His artistic language remains understandable in all over the world, and in the same time it is very specific with many references to Indian culture being in the same time very personal for the artist: “The material is so common; it is all mine”, he says about his creations. “The material belongs to my family. This is where I come from.”

Subodh Gupta, Two Cows, 2003-2008 Bronze, bronze plated chrome
98 x 252 x 118 cm – Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth

 

In India a kitchen is always in the center of house, becoming also a center for social life, exchanges and discussions. For artist, this place is not only a part of everyday routine, but also a symbolic and spiritual space. With his sculptures made of bright metal dishes and pots, he shows this sacred matter of simple objects and intends to trigger debates about some grave problems of our society. For instance, one of the iconic Gupta’s masterpieces Very Hungry God (2006), a big skull that has been created with hundreds of gleaming stainless-steel utensils, evocates increasing universal vanitas, voracious and insatiable; with this artwork he draws our attention to the excessive consumption of our society, that is also accompanied by increasing starvation in several countries, including India. Other famous artworks, like a readymade Two Cows (2003-2008) or a Doot (2003) are inspired by travel, when a split-screen video All Things Are Inside (2007) alludes to the migration. Even showing people in exile, Gupta creates a very personal and intimate sensation, showing to the spectator some simple items for daily life.

Subodh Gupta, Doot, 2003 aluminium – 170 x 163 x 420 cm
Courtesy the artist and Galerie Enrico Navarra

If several works are inspired by personal daily experiences and feelings of the artist, like I Go Home Every Single Day (2004-2014), tracing the artist’s journey from his studio in Delhi to his hometown, others are a result of deep reflections. Today Gupta is working on the theme of the universe, and his last artworks, like Seven Billion Light Years (2015-2016) or Anahad (Unstruck) (2016) are quite philosophical and conceptual. The first one shows a round of dough flying in the air that looks like an Unidentified Flying Object, and the second one is a machine that allows to feel the reverberating sound of the cosmos that transcends space and time.

Faith Matters, 2007/08 Sushi belt, motor, stainless steel, aluminium & brass utensils – 161 x 264,4 x 460 cm – Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth Stefan Altenburger Photography Zürich

Today Gupta is one of the most famous living Indian artists, recognized throughout the world for his spiritualism, originality and variety of media. Exhibited individually for the first time in 1980’s in India, today he is shown in many countries. His recent projects include group and solo exhibitions at Sackler Gallery in Washington DC, USA (2017), Mead Gallery in Warwick, UK (2017), Savannah College of Art & Design in Savannah, USA (2016), Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, USA (2016), Victoria and Albert Museum in London, UK (2015), and Museum für Moderne Kunst in Frankfurt, Germany (2014).

The exhibition in Monnaie de Paris is the first opportunity to see all described Gupta’s artworks together in France. They will be on display from 13th April to 26th August 2018 in conversation with the Monnaie’s permanent collection of metal artifacts to stimulate the visitor’s reflection on the medium of metal and to emphasize its symbolic value and the technical and artistic skill required to manipulate with it. This exhibition is curated by Camille Morineau, director of Exhibitions and Collections at the Monnaie de Paris and Mathilde de Croix, exhibition curator at the Monnaie de Paris. It will be also accompanied by a publication in French and English with descriptions of displayed works, commented chronology of artist’s career and a series of essays.

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Celebrating as well the artist’s 80th birthday, the museum is exhibiting more than 160 paintings, photos, engravings, video installations and drawings focusing on Hockney’s artistic evolution. The first part of the show unveils his initial steps where he centered on the city’s urban landscape, particularly on industrial architecture. While attending the art college in Bedford, his paintings were deeply influenced by the Kitchen Sink School and realism, subject that has prevailed in his canvases over the years.

Nonetheless, if he emulated the movement’s color palette – black, red and gray mostly – his creations soon became more vivid. Yet, another element producing a transformation in Hockney’s style was the retrospective in 1960 devoted to Pablo Picasso. His versatile compositions convinced the artist of the incommensurable potential of painting, he needn’t to espouse a sole style as he could embrace them all.

Enthusiastic about this new approach, Hockney embarked in a journey to America that revolutionized once more his painting. The American way of life – the country’s relaxed ambiance and counter culture – impulsed Hockney to more hedonistic hedonistic subjects such as in Domestic Scene, Los Angeles (1963) where two young man take a shower together. Moving to the West Coast his style transfigured into more geometrical configurations where form, either human or landscape belonged to the realm of painting. The intensity and clarity of the Californian light was also investigated during this period, its refraction on water bodies mainly pools sought the birth of iconic works such as Bigger Splash (1967) or Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) (1972), and more.

The perspective in his paintings became linear as in Renaissance canvases with precise vanishing points, imitating reality turned into an obsession. Moreover, presumably the artist became more interested in photography and its mimetic ability. He created what he named “joiners”, a mosaic of polaroids joined together. Although known as a painter, the exhibition sheds light on the artist’s early interest in new technologies.

David-Hockney-Looking-Pictures

From this point on, space and its pictorial representation were steadily investigated in Hockney’s artistic practice, his canvas Looking at Pictures on a Screen (1977) is a brilliant mise en abyme were the spectator observes an inner spectator observing paintings from diverse artists like Vermeer, Van Gogh and Piero della Francesca. Evoking art’s heritage, Hockney’s interest in human vision as well as reality’s representation became more distinct commanding the decades work. To unravel the slightest details registered in man’s eye and to reproduce them was the creator’s ambition, paintings such as Henry Geldzahler and Christopher Scott (1969) or Contre-jour in the French Style (Against the Day dans le Style Français), (1974) bears witness of this argument.

Nevertheless, after the linear rigidity, Hockney’s oeuvre in the 1980’s and 1990’s frees form transfiguring the pictorial space into two dimensional. Henri Matisse vibrant colours supplant the diluted tones utilised by the artist, landscapes and nature take over his oeuvre and joyously celebrate Mother Earth. The 4 seasons, time lost and found, transform into a recurrent narrative that the artist keeps expanding currently. Continuing with this everlasting interest in technology, he employed the Ipad to create more sophisticated drawings.

David-Hockney-Self-Portrait

David Hockney’s exhibition is an in-depth study of one of the most prolific contemporary artists ever to date. His positive stance on technology open doors to art making it evolve and touch new heights.

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