Artist Shubham Kumar looks at the idea of home and belonging through diverse mediums, be it watercolours or digital manipulations on video. He looks at the many historical and sociopolitical events that have impacted his ancestral home and farmland in Gaya, Bihar.
In his new solo at the Gallery Latitude, New Delhi, titled ‘Ghare, Khet Dera’, which is on view till 2 January, 2023, he is reflecting on some of these subjects. In an essay about the show, artist-writer Anisha Baid states, “Kumar has iteratively investigated his ancestral home and farmland in relation to national and regional histories of caste, economic precarity, homelessness and land conflict.”
Ghare stands for the ancestral village home, which has to adapt to new laws of the land, and then there is Khet, which has been witness to conflict between Maoist revolutionaries and the farmland owners. “Using the camera as a tool to fabulate an escape route through the land, he re-stages these positions of capture and escape in the field. Stills from these performed escapes in the safety of the present then become reference materials for Kumar’s meticulously photorealistic watercolour paintings,” adds Baid.
Kumar’s work always brings into the fore the temporary nature of the home and the suspect nature of the image. In an interview with Lounge, the artist shares some of his key influences and the relationship that he has with his workspace.
Who are the artists that you follow closely? What about them appeals to you?
A few of the many artists I admire are Giorgio Morandi, Samson Young, and Walid Raad. Morandi’s simplicity of using similar forms and subtle colours; Samson Young's development of liberating forms of language that bridge multidisciplinary formats of expression; Walid's play with reality and fiction—these are all quite interesting to me.
What was the first medium/tool you used in the early years of practice? How has that evolved now?
I experimented with watercolours quite early on, even before college. That has stayed with me through all these years, even after having explored several other mediums.
Describe your current workspace to us
My current workspace is in my flat, which I stay in Vadodara. It's a small space with a table and chair that I use as I create paintings. It's a comfortable space to work from and inhabit.
How would you define your daily relationship with this space?
My relationship with this space is in a way mutual. It allows me to continue my practice and also do the most needed thing in my life— cooking.
What's the one thing that has always been at your workspace over the years and why?
One thing that has always been at my workspace is my laptop. It helps me to always keep myself involved in my practice, be it by painting, video making, editing or writing.
If you were to trade in this place for another, what would it be?
A place with any kind of water body in front would be nice.
What's next for you?
Definitely a vacation and then back to work with newer experimentation.
Could you talk about how the idea of home and belonging has evolved for you? What are the different narratives that influence your depiction of the home and settlement?
Home for me is a place for safety and security. One's belongings within that space act as a witness to all the events and happenings a family and its members go through. It is also a marker of the community and region you come from.
How has your practice expanded to include digital manipulations on video?
Detailed painting and a grasp on the medium pushed me to think more about fabrication; for me, painting is also a kind of fabrication. From there on, I wanted to look into more ways in which an image can be manipulated and fabricated, which pushed me to explore digital manipulations.
Creative Corner is a series about writers, artists, musicians, founders and other creative individuals and their relationships with their workspaces.