Selected works by Probir Gupta

Probir Gupta
Rats And Generals In A Zoological Park

2007

Acrylic and oxides on canvas

Overall size: 229 x 488 cm

Probir Gupta’s canvases are enormous in their scale and narrative. A Kolkata art student during the Maoist uprising in India in the early 1970’s, Gupta demonstrated against routine acts of violence and terrorism. Gupta’s paintings appear as grand history paintings, containing intricate details and pulsating backgrounds. In Rats and Generals in a Zoological Park a sombre looking full-length portrait of Mahatma Gandhi stands robust in front of a coloured version of the Bayeux tapestry. Throughout the work, contoured figures and morose forms riddle the canvas. With his works, Gupta reorganises history into something messy, troubling and rueful in which nothing appears to take precedence.

Probir Gupta
Free Passage

2007

Acrylic and iron oxides on canvas

Overall size: 226 x 396 cm

Free Passage has been likened to Pablo Picasso’s 1937 painting Guernica. Gupta’s somber figures are depicted in black and white, with the words free passage painted across the canvas in Urdu. The inverted head of the statue of Liberty, camouflaged in army fatigue, emerges from what appears to be a pelvic region to the right of the canvas, as if in birth. The black and white figures possess a theatrical quality; they are shown witnessing the birth of an era of intolerance and violence. The forms appear on the brink of dissolving, as colour disappears from the foreground and becomes rooted into the distance.

Probir Gupta
Anxiety of the Unfamiliar

2006

Acrylic and iron oxides on canvas

268 x 398 cm

In Anxiety of the Unfamiliar Gupta’s figures appear to have transformed into beetles laid out as dreadful corpses. Man, machine and insect intertwine into incomprehensible forms resembling scenes from Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Beneath these grotesque figures are a series of miniature negative portraits of men at the epicentre of significant episodes in India’s politically charged history.

Probir Gupta
The Bene Israel Family

2006

Acrylic and iron oxides on canvas

229 x 396 cm

Gupta’s portrait of the Bene Israel Family is a thoroughly engaging examination of the past. The Bene Israel were a group of Jewish emigrants, who settled in Cochin, in the southern part of the Indian sub continent, at the turn of the century. Research indicates that the Bene Israeli community soon rose to prominence and thrived in the Indian sub continent, at a time when Jewish communities faced persecution in Europe. In Gupta’s painting, the distorted background draws on the history of the Holocaust whilst the Bene Israel Family emerges from this background in indigenous attire, as native Indians of the subcontinent. This work displays the artist’s ongoing examination of identity and social history.

Probir Gupta
Anxiety of Unfamiliar I

2006

Acrylic and iron oxide on canvas

198 x 194 cm
Anxiety of the Unfamiliar I recalls Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, in which the unsuspecting protagonist of the short story wakes to find himself transformed into an insect. Gupta’s two robotic insects are painted side-by-side in an outline of muddy brown and bright yellow. Transparent in their appearance the larger of the two is constructed of a multitude of intricate limbs rooted to a robotic spine that forms the anatomic shell which holds this dissected insect together. Beside it is a smaller insect that falls from the top of the canvas and has within it an animation of acrylic figures at the crest of a mountain under a pitched flag pole wrestling with an unsettled sky.
Probir Gupta
This Is Not A Pipe

2005

Acrylic and oxides on canvas with stretched vinyl

244 x 292 cm

Gupta references French Surrealist René Magritte in this painting with the same title. The space allows for endless possibilities, with multi-layered forms resting one on top of the other. For Gupta, a series of beaming portraits, floating pipes, a map of India broken up into its regional details and a naked figure contorted in a well intentioned pose form the subject of multiple narratives.


Articles

ILLUSION, RESOLUTION AND RENDITION BY GAYATRI SINHA


At Half Mast, (Nature Morte and Rabindra Bhawan till this Sunday) an exhibition of paintings and installation works by Probir Gupta packs the kind of visceral energy that has generally evaporated from the more ironic, flamboyant imagery that characterises contemporary Indian painting in particular, and art in general. In the language of mythology, Mayapuri is the world of illusion, the web of enticement that Kabir laments in his poetry. Mayapuri, the Delhi colony, serves as a potent metaphor for Gupta, who sources his scrap iron objects from its wasteland of abandoned military junk. He then uses these objects - as both physical material and evocations - to virtually create a body of mutilated forms that serves as a dominating foreground-background within his paintings. The galleries at Rabindra Bhavan are dominated by his large brooding paintings of roiling limbs and metal objects that look like the aftermath of a bomb blast. More importantly, Gupta seeks to locate responsibility in his exhibition, by implicating power structures that loom like icons within this space. In the powerful painting, The White Man's Paranoia, the artist's indictment is sharp and inescapable. An apparently enfeebled Christ's figure is pushed behind images that loom like cinematic presences, figures drawn from a medieval west Asian world perhaps, that witnesses the expansion of churches, the construction of iconographies, the columns and arches of power that mark a triumphal spread of institutionalised churches. Like elements of paraphrase, there are scenes from European churches, icons in small niches now rendered in violent sexual acts.

The figures in this painting in themselves suggest an epic, cinematic dimension. A fat cat merchant, priest or women, one rich and conspicuously androgynous, the others as rough hewn labour. Together they witness the power of the church and upper European cities, the march of industry, financial and sexual control. The evocations of Abu Ghraib and acts of violence in the name of God are powerfully told. The recipients of such controls appear in works like Blue Print and the Dislocated Spine. Here, the waste of the army dump at Mayapuri becomes apocryphal for any such dump where mutating bones and crushed metal float into view. It is as if the back alleys of military detritus have made their way into an art gallery to shock you with their excess. These are images of an unspeakable desolation, no part of the canvas is free from the roiling metallic forms that seem to second best as mock phalluses, lending the notion of toxicity and dominance a deep and invidious dimension.

Source: hinduonnet.com