Subodh Gupta draws heavily from his own experience in culling material for his art, recasting traditional objects of Indian culture in contemporary media and contexts. The artist has an uncanny ability to identify those icons of Indian culture that posses innate dichotomies suggesting both the traditional and modern, the rural and urban, the wealthy and the impoverished. He uses clichés such as the cow and its dung, the colonial style Ambassador car, the rickshaw, and the stainless steel utensils of a typical South Asian kitchen to comment on larger social ills of discrimination, caste politics, globalisation, industrialisation, and religious tensions.
Filtering through his cache of symbols, the stainless steel vessel is an iconic emblem of Gupta's work and epitomizes his ability to find tension and irony in the mundane. The artist regularly employs the stainless steel implements, using their form in both painting and as a kind of Duchampian style ready-made. Familiar to both the rural and urban echelons of Indian society, these shining 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 china used in upper-class Western cultures. They are also objects of desire for the underclasses. Gupta is particularly sensitive to this societal stratum as Bihar, his hometown, is associated with backwardness and lawlessness. The artist has recast dishes, pots, and pans in a number of incarnations, piling them into the shape of temples, hanging them precariously from the ceiling and, in the spirit of Claes Oldenburg, magnifying a single pail to mammoth proportions.