Following from a tradition of 'Pop' sensibility, Subodh Gupta's post-modernist ideas channel far-ranging influences from Marcel Duchamp, Josef Beuys, Claes Oldenburg, Andy Warhol and more recently Jeff Koons. Koons' Easyfun - Ethereal series, extols themes of gratification created through a collaged fantasy-scape combining child-like and adult desires by the elevation of consumer goods and by extension a commentary on consumerism.
However, Subodh Gupta's works bear only superficial resemblances to Koons as his artistic vocabulary is firmly rooted in the vernacular of everyday India. Gupta - ever the appropriation artist - ironically states, "I am the idol thief. I steal from the drama of Hindu life. And from the kitchen - these pots, they are like stolen gods, smuggled out of the country. Hindu kitchens are as important as prayer rooms. These pots are like something sacred, part of important rituals, and I buy them in a market. They think I have a shop, and I let them think it. I get them wholesale." (C. Mooney, 'Subodh Gupta: Idol Thief', ArtReview, 17 December 2007, p. 57)
Familiar to both the rural and urban echelons of Indian society, these stainless steel containers are a ubiquitous element in the trousseau of newly married women and a staple of many Indian homes. Predominantly, however, these quotidian vessels are used by middle-class Indians as dishes and cooking implements in place of the porcelain or glassware brought out for guests and special occasions. The vessels are also aspirational objects of desire for the under-classes. Gupta is particularly sensitive to this societal stratum as Bihar, his home province, is associated with backwardness and lawlessness.
In a time when India has emerged as the glossy, rising star, of the art world, Gupta chooses to leave a stroke of potent, viscous, blue paint dripping across his otherwise pristinely painted canvas. It is like a reminder, that despite what appears on the surface, a polished culture with pots and pans as luminous as a faade that wealth and affluence has built over an otherwise severely stratified society, the disparities between the upper and under classes, and the cultural and psychological wounds they have inflicted, are still bleeding.
"Superficially, Subodh's art has taken the experience of India away from the dirty, crowded and noisy to the clean, sparse and sedate. While he has done so metaphorically, his choice of icons and materials and his strategy of approach have been anything but simplistic...paintings of the lustrous surfaces of steel pots that bleed from their own making: marvelous symbols that both catch and repel meanings, slipping in and out of focus. A metaphor literally takes form, casting one subject as a substitute for another. Sculpture and painting which employ recognizable imagery make concrete the pervasiveness of metaphors in our thoughts, not only as tropes of language." (P. Nagy, Start.Stop, Exhibition Catalogue, Bodhi Art, Mumbai, March 2007)