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Anita Dube

Indian Contemporary Artist
Born 1958, Lucknow, India
Lives and works in New Delhi

Anita Dube, initially trained as an art historian and critic, creates photographs, sculptures and installations based on concepts ranging from social memory and history to mythology and related phenomena. She works in a variety of materials, evoking industrial structures through foam, plastic, and wire, the realm of crafts with thread, beads, and velvet, and the human body through pieces using bone.



Master of Arts (Art Criticism), Faculty of Fine Arts, Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda


BA (Honours) History, University of New Delhi




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Her aesthetic medium borrows from industrially-produced and religious readymade

Anita’s materials covers a large ground to include industrially produced products like plastic and Styrofoam and religious objects like thread, beads and ceramic eyes used in idol-making. This range of materials provides a rich base for Anita to create newer or alter older contexts and meanings associated with those objects.

Anita Dube’s installation during the Khoj Workshop in 1998 presents the revered thread wrapped around trees with a playful twist. The natural contours of the tree, which resembles the alphabet Y, is wrapped with the saffron coloured thread, mostly seen around trees deemed ‘religious’ according to Hinduism. The tree is given a similar treatment of deification, while two other objects resembling the letters O and U are placed next to each other, to produce the word YOU.

Anita Dube, Untitled, Khoj Workshop

Anita Dube, Short Stories by Kafka - The Truth about Sancho Pazzo, 2012, charcoal on Canson paper, 62 x 50 x 1”

There is also an interest in layering in Dube's works. Layering text she makes dense drawings and scultupres for which the medium become crucial. To render a Kafka story she used charcoal, so that the density of text over text created a complete blackness over the canvas, very symbolic of Kafka's stories. In sculptures, she wraps text over text to create a density that suggests the madness and insomnia of the world.

Body as a site of art-making

Anita Dube uses her body as a subject as well as a site for creating art in some of her works. The body assumes the role of a canvas, on which her idiomatic medium is arranged to create quite unsettling results. This also enables the artist to map out discourses and issues by deploying her body as the subject.
In Offering the artist’s hands are covered with ceramic eyes to create a startling sensation. The eyes then allude to the omniscient third eye or the female pubis, all bearing a mythologised impression of Hindu goddesses. In her video Kissa-e-Noor Mohammed, Nine Contemporary Rasas, 2004, the artist inhabits the guise of a Muslim man, her alter-ego, to address issues of feminism, body politics and fundamentalism.

Anita Dube, Offering (one panel from a group of three), photography, silver gelatine print, 12.5 x 18.5” (each).

Anita Dube, Kissa-e-Noor Mohammed, Nine Contemporary Rasas, 2004, still from a colour video.

Text works assume a powerful part of Anita Dube's oeuvre

Anita Dube, apart from the industrial and religious objects, experiments with texts in her installations. The words and letters assume an obvious linguistic signification while at the same time produce a similar vein of political and aesthetic questioning. She installs texts on walls or carves words through gallery walls.
In her work Woman, 2007, she carved out the word ‘woman’ from paraffin wax with wicks on them and the process involved the wicks burning throughout the exhibition. The work produces a loaded context, moving into the terrain of feminism and womanhood, and the question of presence and existence, with the burning wax slowly erasing the word.“I had begun working with words as sculptures and was fascinated by the idea of a word burning, a slow burning for which a candle/wax work seemed appropriate ” she explains.

Anita Dube, Woman, 2007, paraffin wax and wicks. Installation view, Nature Morte, Berlin.

Anita Dube, Like a Bird on a Wire, 2011, steel, velvet & thread, 288 x 15”

Placing multitudes together to create a claustrophobic and disconcerting aesthetic

The artist places multitudes of objects together, often tightly knitted in a single space. Although seemingly constricted, these objects together exude an organic intent, impressing upon ideas of movement and growth. The ceramic eyes, which so often becomes Anita’s medium, glowers a penetrating gaze from within leaving behind a “live” factor.
 “The eyes are like people for me and this could speak of large migrations in history,” says Dube about the patterning of the eyes. In Intimations of Mortality, 1997, she places hundreds of ceramic eyes in the corner to create an ethereal effect. The corner seems to possess an infinity from within which a living, organic structure begins to spread, or the duality of the corner being a vortex, where everything is being sucked inside.

Anita Dube, Intimations of Mortality 1, 1997, enamel, copper, blue tack, 132 x 100 x 5”.