° 1975

Lives in Mumbai (IN), born in Mumbai (IN).

Shilpa Gupta: earthly duality 

Indian artist Shilpa Gupta earned a degree in sculpture in 1997 from the Sir J.J. School of Fine Arts in Mumbai. In 2015, she was invited to participate in the Venice Biennale, where she showed a solo project in the My East is Your West exhibition at Palazzo Benzon. The title's duality exemplifies the nature of Gupta's artworks that explore human relationships, subjectivity and perception through themes of desire, conflict, borders and censorship. Her work is multifaceted and often interactive. Rather than presenting spectators with an aesthetic manifesto of her ideas, she challenges them to dialogue with the displayed reality. 

Gupta uses media such as sculpture, installations, texts, and photography to showcase her mastery of contemporary audiovisual possibilities. She sees technology as an extension of the body and the mind, combining this with a keen awareness of the psychological and aesthetic role of all possible media. Although her work often refers to the social or political situation of a specific cultural context, Gupta emphatically keeps all options open when it comes to interpretation, ensuring her work can be exhibited and interpreted regardless of place and time.

She is tremendously fascinated with borders, whether geographical and political or social and personal. She is also interested in human perception, how we look at others and at ourselves and how we define ourselves. She succeeds in providing spectators with a key to their own universe of associations and images with minimal resources, such as a strand of yarn or a single sentence, enticing them to take a stand on how they relate to the work and also to the world, with the term 'border' interpreted in several ways. Her home country of India is often her starting point, but she mainly focuses on globalisation and the social and political issues arising from it. At a time when the world is at our fingertips and distances are increasingly easy to cross, national borders seem to be increasingly defined. Gupta questions these artificial state borders, which are often younger than the cultures living and moving along them. She therefore calls her work everyday art because it responds directly to her daily observations and associations.

Besides drawings, sketches and photographs, she also creates abstract room-filling sculptures, combining them with sound installations with a particular visual aesthetic: dozens of identical microphones suspended from the ceiling, accompanied by impaled A4 sheets with poetic texts. After an invisible voice declaims, "Without revolution, there can be no proper peace", loudspeakers whisper all kinds of sentences, cloaking the room with a chorus of friendly twittering. The spectator feels trapped in the elusive higher world surrounding him, while the political poetry contrasts with the installation's static set-up. 

Gupta creates a similar duality with bars of soft soap in which THREAT (threat) has been imprinted in large letters. The work resembles a small monolith of soap bars resembling XL bricks. By encouraging the viewer to take home a bar of soap, the work's scope becomes global, transforming the spectator into the object's owner. Gupta seems to be asking whether the 'threat' can be dismantled and washed away, soap bar after soap bar. 

Shilpa Gupta's work has been featured in various solo shows at the Barbican, London (2021); Dallas Contemporary (2021); M HKA, Antwerp (2021). In 2019, Gupta participated in the 58th Venice Biennale, curated by Ralph Rugoff. In 2019, she received the GQ Cultural Provocateur Award, and in 2018, she was voted India Today's New Media Artist of the Year. Her artworks can be found in such prestigious collections as the Guggenheim, New York; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; the Mori Art Museum, Tokyo and the Louis Vuitton Foundation, Paris and M HKA, Antwerp, among others. 


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