Now open and running until 6 February 2022, Barbican Art Gallery presents the first major London solo exhibition, Sun at Night, by Mumbai-based artist Shilpa Gupta. One of South Asia’s most critically acclaimed artists working today, Gupta’s multidisciplinary practice encompasses a wide range of media and processes, from text, sculpture, video, photography, and sound which poetically explores physical and ideological boundaries and how, as individuals, we come to feel a sense of isolation or belonging. For the Barbican’s 34th commission for The Curve, Gupta builds on her acclaimed project For, In Your Tongue, I Cannot Fit (2017–18) – an immersive multi-channel installation which comprises 100 microphones suspended above 100 metal spikes, each piercing a page inscribed with a fragmented verse of poetry by a poet incarcerated for their work, writings, or beliefs.

Shilpa Gupta: Sun at Night. Installation view. The Curve, Barbican Centre. 7 October 2021 – 6 February 2022. © Tim Whitby / Getty Images

Including poetry from the 8th to the 21st centuries such as by Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Samuel Bamford, Irina Ratushinskaya, and the 14th century Azerbaijani poet Nesimi – whose writing inspired the title of the installation – the soundscape alternates between languages including Arabic, Azeri, Chinese, English, Hindi and Spanish. In addition to reconfiguring For, In Your Tongue, I Cannot Fit, for its London premiere in the dramatic arc of The Curve, Gupta presents a new body of work extending on the research and themes present in the installation. This includes the artist’s first pair of motion flapboards which further expand on Gupta’s use of sound, language and the power of speech within her practice. To learn more about the new exhibition, Something Curated spoke with Gupta.

Shilpa Gupta: Sun at Night. Installation view. The Curve, Barbican Centre. 7 October 2021 – 6 February 2022. © Tim Whitby / Getty Images

Something Curated: Can you give us some insight into your background and how you first became interested in making art?

Shilpa Gupta: The choice of a ‘field’, which in my case, was the art school is made when you are sixteen, which is a rather young age to have to choose what you would like to do with yourself. I don’t think at that age one thinks too much of a future which could extend into years. Future then is more immediate. However, what drove the choice is a strong feeling from the gut which pulls you into a world where you can risk a pursuit of attempts to make sense of emotions and sensations. There is of course the aspect of skill, without which it would be impossible to pass through a rigorous entrance test. However, its the former instinct that keeps it going.

Shilpa Gupta: Sun at Night. Installation view. The Curve, Barbican Centre. 7 October 2021 – 6 February 2022. © Tim Whitby / Getty Images

SC: What is the thinking behind the selection of works included in your upcoming exhibition at Barbican Art Gallery?

SG: The works in the show emerge from two spaces which strangely overlapped. One is a continuing interest in mobility of the body and ideas, which persist, masquerade or catapult across systems which mark and tabulate. While the world seems to get more and more connected, we have seen a rise of new surveillance mechanisms and return of old archaic methods which want to reign in and control fluidity to stay in power. Second, the last year and a half, via multiple and varied kinds of lockdowns, we all experienced an unexpected moment of deep pause fused with anxiety, fear and pain – for months on end, we were confined in our homes. The works in the show sit between these two entanglements.

Shilpa Gupta: Sun at Night. Installation view. The Curve, Barbican Centre. 7 October 2021 – 6 February 2022. © Tim Whitby / Getty Images

SC: How have you considered The Curve as a site for display?

SG: It was wonderful to receive an invitation to show the sound work at the Curve at the Barbican. Upon visiting it I could see why – it is long and narrow, with exceptionally high ceilings – somewhat cavernous and it snakes behind the large theatre like an unexpected hidden corridor, akin to a footnote, perhaps even the spine of a curled-up creature. The proposition to show For, In Your Tongue I Cannot Fit made sense: to infuse The Curve with voices and sounds that hover, echo and persist through the being of our societies.

Shilpa Gupta: Sun at Night. Installation view. The Curve, Barbican Centre. 7 October 2021 – 6 February 2022. © Tim Whitby / Getty Images

SC: What are you currently reading?

SG: I have a couple of unread Anita Agnihotri books on my bedside. However due to the hectic install and related things around three solo shows, I haven’t been able to get to it.



Feature image: Shilpa Gupta: Sun at Night. Installation view. The Curve, Barbican Centre. 7 October 2021 – 6 February 2022. © Tim Whitby / Getty Images

Stay up to date with Something Curated

Privacy Preference Center

Close your account?

Your account will be closed and all data will be permanently deleted and cannot be recovered. Are you sure?