fresh, minimalistic, innovative and original : Architecture+Design | In its entirety it can fill the Tate Turbine Hall: The Pioneer.| Gupta has universalised the diya to draw attention to a contemporary issue: Mail Today


River Waterfront

Time Machine

Beehive Garden Project

Noah’s Ark

Zen and the Shrinking River

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Manav Gupta Public Art Installations Excavations in hymns of clay waterfront India Habitat Centre
“Excavations in Hymns of Clay” is a suite of environmental art installations by Manav Gupta where the artist deploys the quintessentially Indian potter’s produce of clay objects such as the earthen lamps (“diyas”), local cigar (“chilam”), earthen cups (“kullar”)  and  transforms their individual identity into metaphors and idioms of  sustainability, context, perception and treatment as he conceptualizes and creates large scale avant-garde installations.He stuns the viewer with his originality of thought as he produces a cutting edge contemporary global language that he intelligently derives from the “local”, in his “excavations” of the spiritual philosophy of sustainable living as espoused in Indian scriptures, even as he brilliantly executes an organic engagement of art with architecture and space.

While one is lured intelligently within the sensuousness of the ‘Waterfront’, ‘River of clay’, and ‘Rain’ letting one feel the ethereal, emotive content like that of an epic story, Manav explores the essence of the vedic practices to subtly bring to light the repository of solutions that the ancient way of life could offer in today’s context of sustainable development and  current issues around rivers like the Ganga.

In sculptures like the ‘Time Machine’, ‘Bee-hive’, ‘Solitary reapers’, ‘Noah’s arc on my eyot’ the fragility of clay juxtaposed with the limitedness of the “cup of life” question the paradigm of Time and human engagement with it in today’s rapidly mechanized and constructed consumerist engagement with earth’s resources.

All along he sets up the works as subtle, sensitive organic site specific architectural instances that set the stage at public, institutional and  private spaces for dialogues and questions that audiences can have with the art and within themselves.

|Manav Gupta Public Art Installations Excavations in hymns of clay waterfront India Habitat Centre 1
 Manav Gupta Public Art Installations Excavations in hymns of clay waterfront India Habitat Centre 2  


Manav Gupta Public Art Installations Excavations in hymns of clay waterfront India Habitat Centre 3


 Installation using earthen lamps as a metaphor, the unsung hymns of clay by manav gupta

the metaphor

Using the earthen lamp as a metaphor, Manav explores issues of environment consciousness. We recognise and respect earth only when we use its resources for our use without reverence. Having been a part of the religious rituals many years and having grown up and lived this practice in India for years this whole symbolic circle of life has deeply affected the artist to use earthen lamps diyas as a metaphor to explore and raise questions on environment consciousness. And also about the very glaring issue of how perception and context interplay each other. How men and objects are made to traverse responses and the destiny of reactions based on usage, perception, context and situation.

 |RIVER OF CLAY1by Manav Gupta in his Travelling Trilogy III
 Manav Gupta, RIVER OF CLAY2a1  |
The earthen lamp is woven in the cultural-religious fabric of India from time immemorial. This humble small clay bowl called the diya is shaped by poor potters who keep them in large numbers by the road side in heaps for selling. Sometimes beside garbage dumps or beside sewage drain they have a nondescript existence till the time they are bought home by people.Once home, only at the time of worship, they are used as a tool at the altar.Then something dramatic happens. The same humble small bowl of clay that had no meaning, no significance or existence in the human pshyche suddenly turns into the medium of conveying the desires of the soul. Sacred as soon as when placed at the alter.Priests say you do not need to purify these mud bowls by sprinkling of Holy water of the Ganges because it is made of earth and is pure.Oil ispoured in it. A wicker lit. And it assumes the status of the Holy Grail carrying one‘s prayers of the soul to the Gods and our spirit awakens. Once the prayer ends, the earthen lamp is discarded again to be immersed in the Ganges. Taken for granted. Annointed when needed. Only revered when in use. And after its purpose is served, discarded and thrown and another one bought to serve the desires of the soul yet another day. Its life is strange as the way of the world and the circle of life. Like the unsung hymns of clay.

the analogy 

The artist has also taken his analogy from the Ganges.The sacred river of India has dedications that have always poured on it in many ways.The opening lines of the lyrics of an old song from an Indian movie speak about the dichotomy of perceptionIt conveys,

‘ if you believe, then I am sacred, or else mere water that flows…’

Given today’s world of current complex issues of treatment and perception of women as well as earth (referred to as mother earth in many quarters of Indian spirituality ) the artist draws a cross spectrum reference of eroding human values.

The pollution of the rivers, the shrinking of water and its availability and such other climate change issues have been in the artist’s ethos of work since beginning.

 Installation by Manav Gupta | paintings
 Manav Gupta's Installation, Zen  


If you believe.
It lies
in a heap
of nothingness.
Unsung, unlit, unheard.
Till the end of time.

At an alter
Flames peep out
of it’s earthen palms.
An iridescent arch
woven by moonbeams.
Vanquishing all darkness.
My soul sings my desires
Filling me with abundance.