Since the opening of Hauser & Wirth Somerset nearly two years ago, the gallery has hosted a remarkable rotation of outdoor sculpture in the grounds around the renovated 18th century farmhouse. The gallery’s latest installation brings an otherworldly bent to Bruton’s bucolic landscape: a monumental, steel Banyan tree by the New Delhi-based artist Subodh Gupta, who is the subject of a major solo exhibition, ‘Invisible Reality’, recently opened at Durslade Farm.
It’s a startling sight, as though an alien organism has sprouted from the manicured lawns. Entitled Specimen No. 108, 2015, the silver sculpture twists and writhes towards the sky, while steel utensils blossom from its branches like fruit. The number 108 is considered sacred among the Dharmic religions – including Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism – but it seems Gupta is tapping into more than just his spiritual side. A journey into the cosmos awaits us.
Upon entering the first gallery, visitors are greeted by a gargantuan gong-like sculpture. In fact, the hand-hammered artwork, Touch, Trace, Taste, Truth, 2015, takes its cues from a large cooking pot – but with a twist. The two-faced sculpture reveals a stark, black void on the other side, filled with a thorny web of barbed wired.
Set in the temple-like space of the threshing barn, the mammoth sculpture takes on a mystical quality. On the one hand, the golden orb lures us like Icarus to the sun; on the other hand, we're repelled by its inhospitable contents. Here, the artist draws parallels between an everyday object and a cosmic counterpart, a theme that underpins the entire show.
In a nearby space, Gupta explores a new, experimental working process in his series Pressed for Space, 2015. Known for his use of found objects, the Indian artist breathes new life into discarded vessels and colourful fabrics – gathered from scrapyards and tailors – compressing them into abstract, sculptural compositions.
The show’s key piece is the installation from which the exhibition takes it name. In a darkened space, a traditional wood and terracotta house from southern India is illuminated from its core by a celestial, phosphorescent light. Every few minutes the serenity is shattered by thundering, rolling vibrations, the sheer physicality of the work imposing itself on visitors. The roof, meanwhile, is draped in a white material meant to represent a snaked shedding its skin – an act that came to Gupta in a dream.
Elsewhere, an eerie static flickers through the carved marble doors of Sunset, 2015; while Chanda Mama Door Ke (From Far Away Uncle Moon Calls), 2015, comprises a cascading sphere of aluminium utensils, taking inspiration from a popular Hindi children’s nursery rhyme, in which a child converses with the moon as if it were an old friend (or uncle).
Gupta concludes by bringing us back down to earth with his fondness for cooking and entertaining, staging an Indian-themed banquet at the gallery’s restaurant during the opening weekend. One dish from the artist’s feast will be made available at the Roth Bar & Grill menu on a weekly rotation throughout the duration of the exhibition – and just like the rest of the show, Gupta’s Goan prawn curry is simply heaven-sent.