Manav Gupta’s recent mega installation uses earthen lamps as metaphors on environmental issues. The artist has four entries in this year’s limca Book of Records. He spoke to D Kaushik
He is known for kingsized murals. The six-floor high, 5000 sq feet in façade and 10000 sq foot painted surface of a mural at the Airtel headquarters in Gurgaon, is among his more prominent works. Gupta employs a contemporary artistic language used to spread a message about environment conservation. He remarked, “I respect and love the earth and nature. And I have always tried to create awareness concerning environmental issues. I have worked in this field for many years. I grew up with nature and this reflects in my work.”
Gupta’s latest exhibition is called Unsung Hymns of Clay.Currently showcasing in Pretoria, the capital of South Africa, it features a large installation called River of Clay, which uses earthen lamps as metaphors for Indian spirituality, conveying how we use the earth to our advantage.
Manav explained, “While growing up, I saw earthen lamps lying in heaps. They always seemed non-descript. But the same lamps, when lit at the altar for prayer, took on different meaning. They are considered sacred, but we discard them after their purpose is served. I used them as a metaphor for Earth. We connect to her but damage and exploit her too.”
He added, “It is believed when you use diyas for worship of the lord, you do not have to purify the mud bowls with holy Ganges water, because they already are pure. Oil is poured and the wicker lit is holy. But when prayer is complete the lamp is discarded. So the title, Unsung Hymns of Clay.”He also references the pollution done to the river Ganga.
The installation with over hundreds of earthen lamps appears as a flowing water from the distance. The inverted lamps are arranged in neat, but flowing sequences. In its entirety it can fill the Tate Turbine Hall. “I have given a language to the lamps, which is minimalistic yet dramatic,” he added.
Manav just returned from South Africa after the High Commission of India hosted the premiere and launch of the third edition of his travelling trilogy at the National Museum there, after two successive previous editions in recent years in US, Europe and the Middle East. It was extended by the Federal Museum, as an outreach during the BRICS Summit.
“As the exhibition focusses on sustainable development, human responses to the environment and man’s role in climate change and other environmental hazards faced, the duration of display has been extended,” informed Gupta. He took over a year to complete the installation and plans to show it in India too.