Sea Creature, edition 4/5 - 2014.54.1_1_2014festaff


Sea Creature, edition 4/5

Maker: Anita Dube (b.1958)
Medium:two gelatin silver prints mounted on board
Geography: New Delhi, India
Date: 2000
152.4 x 101.6 cm
Object number: 2014.54.1
Credit Line: This acquisition was made possible with the generous support of the Louise Hawley Stone Charitable Trust Fund
Not on view

Anita Dube is an artist who was trained in sculpture but then branched off into other artistic practices, including installation, performance, video, and photography. Born in 1958 and raised in Lucknow, India, she was a founding member of the Radical Sculptors and Painters Association, a group of young artists who reacted against the established narrative painting tradition in favour of a socially and politically conscious art. Dube’s work maps the social and cultural discursive fields of our time, traversing the personal and political with work that is both grounded in the body and is conceptual. Visually, her work seems simple, yet is complex in its materials and references. She often works with found materials, her own body, and a play between realism and abstraction—the benchmarks of international contemporary art practice.

“Sea Creature” is made up two photographs featuring a pair of hands covered in mass-produced eyes that are commonly found in the Indian bazaa’s and used in fashioning statues of Hindu gods. This work exemplifies Dube’s use of “found” objects and their transformation into abstract forms. Their assemblage on a pair of hands (the artist’s own hands) comes out of her sculptural training, but also crosses into performance and installation art. In this way, “Sea Creature” documents Dube’s own ‘body-sculpture’ performance in a photograph. The work blurs the boundaries between found/hand-crafted, figurative/ abstract, and 3D/2D. In this way, “Sea Creature” inverts the medium of photography, a technology used to document “external reality”, by using the “realistic” image as an abstract shape to create something else.

While “Sea Creature,” speaks to a spirit of experimentation, it also connects with South Asia’s cultural heritage. The use of mass-produced eyes intended for statues of Hindu gods and goddesses connects the photograph to a long history of temple sculpture and icons of deities used in family shrines. In Hinduism, eyes are meant to be the windows to the divine. They are applied last by artisans as a way to “awaken” the god spirit inside the image. The role of vision is central to Hinduism through the concept of darshan, which means the exchange of vision between devotee and god image that confers blessings on the devotee. The kinds of eyes used by Dube are often found on popular images of the Hindu goddess Kali as well as traditional statues of Krishna (a very good example is in the ROM’s collection). In some ways, the eyes turn Dube’s hands into images of gods, awaken the divine energy inside them. But they also abstract the hands, taken them away from the human body through the profusion of pattern. The use of such found objects is a major trend in international contemporary art practice as a way to question the separation of fine art and industrial manufacture.

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