I’d been trying to contact artist Shilpa Gupta for a while, she in Mumbai and me in London. When she finally replies to my emails, she’s elegantly apologetic, explaining how lockdown in the city has kept her from her studio and, therefore, her work.
She’s trying to get as much done as possible, she says, as she reckons there’s another surge of the coronavirus on the way in India, with yet another lockdown to follow. Gupta is working on no less than four exhibitions (“both big and small”) that will all open before November this year, including her London debut solo exhibit at The Curve gallery in the capital’s Barbican Centre.
Born in Mumbai in 1976, Shilpa studied sculpture at the city’s esteemed Sir Jamsetjee Jeejebhoy School of Art, honing a practise that is predicated on definition in resolution; examining the lines along which history and society are drafted and the problems they cause. Shilpa’s ideas are communicated using video, sound and physical objects. Clean, precise and incisive, her work packs a powerful punch, critiquing political hypocrisy, censorship and despotism. At first, it’s puzzling to find that Shilpa doesn’t consider her art to be political, preferring instead to call it “everyday art”. However, time and study reveal the delicate, nuanced approach in her work, one that that emphasises the documentation and re-framing of societal discrimination and the violation of rights, rather than attempting to kick over statues. Gupta is a social commentator and narrator, using the lean, quiet beauty of her artwork to underline case after case of wrongdoing and injustice. She is also one of the most exciting artists working in the world right now.