In the 1990s and 2000s, Subodh Gupta produced a distinct body of work concerned with the effects of urbanization and globalization in the rural communities of North India. With ‘home’ as the central focal point, he contemporizes issues that have affected India since colonial times, while also conceptually linking pop art with Indian visual culture.
Vehicle for Seven Seas is a series of works undertaken by the artist on the theme of migration and the return home. Paintings of luggage and trolleys, and aluminium and bronze cast replicas of the same become overarching metaphors for the hopes and dreams invested in these journeys, as well as the psychological baggage borne by migrant workers battling with homesickness, alienation and assimilation. An oblique commentary on class inequity, Gupta’s works directly allude to the ongoing phenomenon of migrant workers from India’s lower classes toiling in other countries to make a living, which has antecedents in the history of Bihar, the artist’s home province.
This series of works alludes “[...] to changes related to the massive migration of rural residents, who leave their homes in search of a better future in large Indian cities or abroad – a destination viewed as the ultimate form of success. In this context, the airport itself is perceived as a status symbol that allows for comfortable traveling from one place to another. The shiny, modern baggage cart is thus transformed into a monument of globalisation, and into a symbol of economic prosperity and of India's aspirations in its current incarnation as a consumer society.” (Critical Mass: Contemporary Art from India, exhibition catalogue, Tel Aviv, 2012, p. 75)