Subodh Gupta's post-modernist ideas channel far-ranging influences from Marcel Duchamp, Josef Beuys, Claes Oldenburg and Andy Warhol. However, 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)
Lots 15 and 19 are part of a larger series using the stainless-steel barthans (vessels) that can be interpreted on multiple levels. Whether they are milkpails, washing buckets, tiffin boxes, chappati tongs or daal strainers, these durable items are familiar to all echelons of Indian society as a ubiquitous part of many Indian homes and often a staple of the bridal trousseau. Gupta has mined the clichés and tropes of India, then taken them out of context, subverting their meaning. To him, these pristine, gleaming mass-market commodities symbolise India's struggle for equilibrium between the dichotomies of urban/rural; wealth/poverty; socialism/capitalism; asceticism/consumerism; low caste/high caste; and religion/secularism. Gupta makes an ironic twist on the failed political slogan of India's right-wing Hindu Nationalist Party, 'India Shining.' He is particularly sensitive to the Subcontinent's societal stratification as Bihar, his home province, is historically stereotyped as being poverty stricken and backward. Gupta casts his satirical eye over the imperfect India where these everyday objects also symbolise the aspirations of those left in the wake by India's economic boom.