Leading Indian contemporary artist Subodh Gupta has made his name creating monumental sculptures, so it seems fitting that he chose Hauser & Wirth’s art centre in Bruton, Somerset to hold his latest exhibition – for one thing the gallery is not short of is space.
A steel tree hung with pots and pans, Specimen No 108 (€950,000, first picture), stands outside the galleries, heralding a show that reflects on the growing sense of unease about climate change, a topic, says Gupta, that “is in the back of everybody’s minds even if they don’t talk about it”. But the number 108 denotes great good luck, according to the Hindu, Jain and Buddhist religions, and offers a glint of optimism in this otherwise bleak tundra of a subject.
Gupta, originally from Bihar, eastern India, uses humble aluminum and brass cooking pots – handi – as a metaphor throughout the show, both for the impossible-to-see galaxies of outer space and our own, hidden internal worlds. “There are 7bn people on the planet and each person has their own history,” says Gupta.
Inside the first of five cavernous gallery spaces hangs a giant brass pot Touch, Trace, Taste Truth (€500,000, second picture) that looks at first sight like a giant yellow sun – until you walk around it and realise it’s hollow. “I didn’t intend it to become a comment on the migrants coming to the West lured by a golden sun, but that it what it now feels like to me,” says Gupta.
Other standout works in the show include Sunset (€300,000) an ornately carved Jali casement, a key feature of Indian Mughal architecture within which some static digital images eerily sparkle. “I wanted to create the impression of something alien inside us all. We are hiding behind a veil – not really facing the reality of climate change,” says the artist.
One room is full of a series of new works called, chillingly, Pressed for Space – made of pans that are crushed and melded together into picture-sized panels (€80,000 each) – echoes of a much bigger problem.
But the piece de la resistance is Invisible Reality (€650,000) – a cottage made of teak from Kerala in southern India, which hogs the biggest of the galleries. Its steel paneled walls reverberate every three or four minutes like thunder, and your reflection wavers as if on rippling water. Bed sheets cascade down the side of the cottage like Niagara Falls.
The show culminates in a chandelier (third picture) made of more aluminium pots, patty pans, colanders and water jugs – all battered, burnt and loved, and which hang like grey mournful gourds from fishing lines. Together they form the shape of one big handi and the piece is called Chanda Mama Door Ke(From Far Away Uncle Moon Calls) and is priced at €600,000.
“We are taught as children to always think about things far, far away,” explains Gupta, “whereas in fact the secrets of the universe are all here, around us.”