In his forthcoming show, titled Tract, artist Arunkumar H.G. revisits some familiar themes—namely land, food and man’s relationship with them. Arunkumar comes from a farming family and for one of the works, titled Bhu-janalaya, he actually grew wheat over three and a half months. After describing the time, effort and energy that went into growing the wheat, he says, with just a hint of incredulity, that one can procure the same amount of wheat—about 500g—in the market for Rs.20. Edited excerpts from a conversation with Arunkumar:
What is ‘Tract’ about?
The show is about the land and us. I come from a farming background and connect to the land through food. It is also about the ill effects of modern-day techniques of agriculture. Each work comments on different aspects of the subject. I have also been doing photo documentation and have made a book with 100 images that takes us to various places and that is a part of the show.
Bhu-janalaya, 2010. Cultivated wheat, steel, wood, soundtrack. 37 x 75 x 60 inches
Any reason for focusing on food?
Whether someone is rich or poor, food is a necessity for all. When we go to someone’s home we trust them with whatever they offer us to eat or drink. Food then is a sacred bond in that respect. But thanks to market forces, when you go to buy something, can you be sure what there is in it?
Do you see your works as political statements?
Not directly. Though in some places I have used newspaper cuttings of P. Sainath’s well-known articles on food and hunger that he wrote for The Hindu. There are many angles to the issue and also to my works.
Fortune Teller, 2010. Weighing scale, aluminium. 89 x 48 x 28 inches
Your works are installations with sculptural elements. Is pure sculpture becoming less and less relevant in contemporary art?
I call them objects—tables, oven or anything else. I don’t distinguish them in separate categories. I have used brass somewhere or sugar elsewhere. What is called sculpture is changing with time.
Do people buy sculptures?
I think so; if they are good works.
Isn’t it much easier to be a painter than a sculptor?
There are hardly any hard-core sculptors left, but a lot of painters are making sculptures. There are few master sculptors left and maybe that tells us something. Sculptors need space, they have to handle material; it requires labour.
Tract will be on view at Nature Morte, A-1, Neeti Bagh, New Delhi from 11 September-1 October.