Times of India | Uma Nair, Art Critic and Curator | “The Excavated Museum – Manav Gupta”
Museum | Laboratory | arth – art for earth | Public art | Sustainable Development | Climate Change
Water | Time | Beehives | River | Rain | Rainforest | Thought Experiments
“as I scrape
the bottom of the soul
for some ingredients
the only way I can explain to myself,
about what it all is,
is to believe
that in some past life (if there is one)
I belonged to the rainforests.
The mantra there, for survival,
is to submit to the natural forces,
bow before it, respect its ways,
learn and grow.
You cannot defy it or go against it.
In the rainforests
there are labyrinthine dark nesses
weaving around you
but there is always light
in streaks, in a glow, in a stream, sunlight….
all of which brings HOPE.
You don’t bathe in it all the time but it
seeks you out.
Man is but a speck .
The human race, still a speck,
in this mighty Universe
rich with millions of secrets.
The rainforests teach you this.
When I paint or sculpt, all this translates
on my canvas.
I – the medium.
the lyrics of light,
apostrophe of white,
perception – sight, insight;
Rainforests and the romance of colors,
Earth. Water, Clay and the Universe.
Then – this world loses its meanings.
The larger one takes over
And I create.”
Just after his first solo in the spring of 1996, he wrote his artist’s statement, dipping his pen, just like his brush, deep into the labyrinthine crevices of light and shadows within the rainforests. His ink was soaked in pain, from his trials and struggles of his early childhood, hence light for him, became ’hope’ and the colours – the all-encompassing landscape of earth, filled with all the vagaries of life. He revisits his artist statement every year as an annual ritual to fine-comb its core, and it has stayed with him for all of these twenty six years.
Sculptures & Installations
Excavations in hymns of clay
Innovation. Scale. Climate Change. Sustainability.
Craft to Contemporary. Local to Global. Taking art beyond art.
In this movement, earthen lamps (“diyas”), local cigars (“chillam”), earthen cups (“kullhar”), become metaphors and idioms of sustainability, context, perception and treatment of the rivers and waters of lands where the artist’s research and experience together form the story of ‘The River’, the ‘rain’, ‘The Beehive Garden’ and more. Finding new ways of repurposing the traditional to avant garde.
Urging people to think about how we live with and use water and Earth’s natural resources.
the Beehive Garden project
“Gupta at his musing best”
Blouin Art Info
“Fresh, Minimalistic, Innovative and Original.”
Architecture + Design
rain, rainforest and the beehive garden
“Manav Gupta affirms the age-old sanctity of earth and clay, assembling everyday objects made by potters from across India to create huge installations that convey hope, passion, and the journey and transience of life. Using just a few types of functional items—the diya lamp, the kullad tea cup, and the chilam smoking pipe—he succeeds in creating something contemporary yet timeless in its ability to tell a powerful story. Massed in their hundreds and thousands, these humble items gain new significance, as tradition reimagined makes an eloquent case for sustainable practices that respect the earth’s resources while transforming the familiar into something completely unconventional, unexpected, and magical.”
“Gupta came up with a unique way to draw everyone’s attention towards the endangered environment.”
“A river of disposable clay vessels speaks to how we choose to use (and sometimes misuse) the earth for our own purposes, where the artist makes the river an idiom -‐ and takes it across the Nile or the Mississippi or the Thames as ‘water’ that relates to the commonality of environmental issues the world over”
PUBLIC ART REVIEW, USA | Fall-‐winter edition, 2015-2016
“Manav Gupta has reinvented the language of clay with true originaility of thought.”
Architecture Update | Volume 10 | Issue 7 | ‘Allegoric Innovations’
"we're all clay.
dust to dust."
the time machine
“With the first of its kind use of the potter’s produce of earthen cups to form the hourglass; the artist engages the audience with Time and its ethereal and transient passage. Clay, a naked, earth symbol of existence, resource and sustainability and the cup as the metaphor of Time’s limitedness draw us to explore how we use our resources.
The fragility of clay juxtaposed with the limitedness of the “cup of Time” draw an engagement to our waste, perception, passage and interface with Time and Life itself in a rapidly mechanised, capitalistic, consumerist human interaction with earth along our limited timelines of life.
The introduction of Light within, by the artist, celebrates the awakening of our consciousness and its potential of Hope.
This sculpture – installation is philosophical and spiritual, teasing subtle nuances of human intelligence and its emotional quotient on one plane, while at the same time, simple, elegant graceful and celebrating the public engagement with art itself – the exciting possibilities of the potters produce as evolved artistic practice made brilliantly simple by the artist for mass consumption.”
“The artist uses the symbolism of the Noah’s ark to underline the relevance of saving the world. A cycle of creation, un-creation, and re-creation, in which the ark plays a pivotal role. Noah’s ark is the artist’s imagination of an ancient civilisation in which Noah and his boat were etched in history for saving life on earth from doomsday. The artist excavates his impression of how a buried museum might be discovered that houses the Noah’s Ark and the Time Machine and other such creations that hold secrets of sustainable living and how each one of us need to play a role in saving the wrath of Nature if we keep tampering with it. We are all clay and could all be the Noah to stop a while and protect our own; by adopting a safe methodology of sustainable living that takes the future generations of our own families and other species to an evolved and secure life through the consciousness of preserving our environment.”
Zen and the Shrinking River
Paintings | featured series:
lyrics of light
“Manav Gupta’s art, facing both forwards and inwards, is a contemplation of spiritual and the natural communion. He has a precise understanding of color as the language with which nature tries to communicate meanings and values. For him color is a function of sight- implying a sun- like quality in the eye. Here then is a silent discourse on the music of colors. In this way, visually he works out notes and scales to produce melody and harmony. One can follow Manav’s development from color harmonies of great refinement even in his earlier work- on to a progressive liberation of light from the object, or perhaps the resolution of the object into light. Informed by profound intuition, Manav’s pictorial language emerges from and surmounts the creative process to exist objectively… “
Keshav Malik | Art Critic, Scholar and Curator