In Parul Gupta’s square

The Noida-based artist explores a new visual vocabulary with the geometric form at Nature Morte and the Frieze Art Fair

As you walk into the new Nature Morte gallery at The Dhan Mill compound in Chattarpur, New Delhi, two overlapping black squares fix you to the spot with a hypnotic presence. You are pulled into its vortex and, as you walk closer, little details swim into focus. The subtle lines that run across the surface of the oil pastel on paper, the heavy gold pigments that become warm and bold, the void and the frame that draw you into a place of contemplation. It is a visual engagement that teases the eye and stimulates the mind.

It is the first time that the gallery is working with artist Parul Gupta, who is known for work ‘born from minimalism’ — they appear deceptively simple at first, and then reveal their complex programs. It is also her largest solo show to date. Still, on the verge… presents a wide range: drawings on paper made with ink, charcoal, oil pastel, gold pigments, as well as sculptures of painted aluminium covered in industrial paint.

Nature Morte’s new address

  • “We’ve been wanting to move because we needed more space. Last summer, we took advantage of the lockdown. We have two spaces because Delhi real estate doesn’t allow having everything in one building,” says artist and gallerist Peter Nagy. “The Dhan Mill space is our primary display space, while Vasant Vihar [where their offices are] has a small gallery space where we can put up shows with a quicker turnaround, which can be more spontaneous.” Every gallery needs a showing space — because clients often want to see the collection, besides the show currently on display — and “Vasant Vihar is working very well for that”. Two spaces also means the possibility to have newer artists, says Peter Nagy, adding that we can look forward to a solo by Manish Nai, at The Dhan Mill in September.

In both, Gupta seduces the viewer with the illusion of the ‘doppelgänger’ (the twin form), rife with allusions to “paranormal perceptions”. Her main subject is the square, yet the geometric form is torqued, layered, multiplied, and confounded to create works of heightened tensions. “I began my investigation with the square in 2018. It was a form that fascinated me, yet I was not able to work with it in the manner that I wanted. So, I locked myself up in my studio and decided not to take on any other project until I was able to figure out my relation with it,” says Gupta. 40. “In these works, one cannot immediately access the perceptual shift in the square; one has to reach to it. In between, it has many visual hurdles that one has to cross, like a puzzle in their heads, and then decipher it.” If this sounds esoteric, you can understand how her work examines her own interpretations of space and the idea of architecture.

A selection of Still, on the verge… is also being featured on Nature Morte’s online viewing room at Los Angeles’ Frieze Art Fair.

Parul Gupta’s ‘Still, on the verge’ at Nature Morte

Parul Gupta’s ‘Still, on the verge’ at Nature Morte
| Photo Credit: Arjun Mahatta

Playing with layers and gradation

When Gupta works in architectural spaces, the work she creates becomes part of the space — “it is in conversation with the structural elements and visual vocabulary of that space”. What surprised her, however, was her engagement with pigments. “I used black because of its intensity and ability to frame the empty space in the centre and gold because, visually, it balances and softens the black,” shares the artist who graduated from Nottingham Trent University’s Fine Art programme in 2011. Also, because applying industrial paint on aluminium requires skill, she worked with a professional car painter.

#71 (Diptych) — Charcoal & Gold Pigment on Archival Paper

#71 (Diptych) — Charcoal & Gold Pigment on Archival Paper
| Photo Credit: Arjun Mahatta

Her engagement with coloured inks on archival paper is another ongoing experiment. “The gradation of the colours is intentional [based on precise mathematical calculation] since it evokes a sense of movement and interaction with each other,” she tells me.

Gupta, who had her first auction sale during the second wave, in May — Ink Drawing #15 on archival paper sold for ₹49,500 at Saffronart’s Art Rises for India auction — says her work is non-narrative. “It is about engagement with visual perception and spatio-temporal graphs. It is a visual study of geometric, mathematical and architectural elements that impact our ways of looking at our surroundings,” she concludes.

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