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Sudarshan Shetty

Indian Contemporary Artist
Born 1961, Mangalore, India
Lives and works in Mumbai

Sudarshan Shetty’s sculptural installations are fused with a sense of morbid humour and place them in the twilight of presence and absence. More than an artist, he thinks of himself as an entertainer trying to attract people to his art while moving art away from the white cube space of the gallery to the public space, so that there is more of an engagement between art and the common man.



Bachelor of Fine Arts (Painting), Sir J. J. School of Arts, Mumbai


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UNDERSTANDING Sudarshan Shetty

Seeks a direct interaction between art and the masses

Sudarshan Shetty has played a forbearer’s role in bringing about a direct engagement between art and the common masses. He attempts to discard the hallowed tag of the gallery space, and transpose his art onto public spaces where a common man has no other route but view his art.He believes in this condition of art where it is first accessible, and then, posit its artistic discourses . For him, making art to entertain would hold the attention of the masses and then speak about other issues.

Shetty’s Flying Bus, 2012, parked at the corporate hub of Mumbai offers a daunting sight to any passerby. The once ubiquitous double-decker bus is reposed in a massive sculptural form with steel wings on either side of the bus. This public installation also doubles as an exhibition space within it where artists showcase other artworks. This strategy of using an iconic, familiar and everyday mode of transport to house the once-sacred space of a gallery breeds a new awakening in the common man to access and view art in a comfortable setting.

Sudarshan Shetty, Flying Bus, 2012. Installation view, Bandra Kurla Complex, Mumbai, 2012.

The playful and the morbid fuse in his art

Shetty’s works often invoke morbidity, coated with a sense of playfulness. They delve into a cheery paradox and stare into mortality and death. The very appearance of his piece may create a sense of dread and despair, but upon introspection into the seemingly meaningless acts, there appears a pattern evoking beauty and hope.

The sculpture of the two cow skeletons on top of each other on their hoofs, in a mirrored balancing act, even though enthused with a funny circus-like acrobatic skill, ultimately point towards a more morbid affect of death and aftermath. The carcases in this entanglement offer both a crisis and hope in an after-death existence, indulging in a playful act in the form of carcasses.

Sudarshan Shetty, No Title (from Love), 2006, aluminium skeletons, brass, metal hammer, electric device, 108.2 x 109.2 x 21.6”.

Street technology configures in his art and its making

Sudarshan Shetty has always looked towards the small industries and groups, and the people working there for inspiration. Street technology or the small scale version of technology that small industries use has always informed his work. More often than not he appropriates several elements into his own work.

His installation of the metal cabinet with vases with flowing red hued liquid within it, pumped by a small mechanised water pump, displays this appropriation of common technology to fuel his art. The small water pump generates that artistic integrity within the installation as it would in a similar practical vein to pump water in small households.

Sudarshan Shetty, No Title (from Love), 2006, metal cabinet, glass vases, red-tinted liquid, electric pump.

Paintings too depict similar object-assemblages with the strain of black humour

Shetty, though mostly known for his installations, often transposes these object-assemblages onto paintings. With a photorealist tonality, these paintings usually depict the mechanics of everyday life.  Continuing from a similar trajectory of fascination with creating dissimilar meanings with found objects, often tinged with a black humour, his paintings too depict a similar fascination and some philosophical agenda.

His Untitled (Armchairs), 2006, follows a banal projection of a modern living room, fully spacious with minimal objects around, while the French windows provide unrestricted light from outside. The minimalist architecture presents a human absence, denoting the space an apocalyptic sense where humans have ceased to exist. Shetty thinks this predicament of humans to be condemned to be elsewhere is a matter of rejoice.

Sudarshan Shetty, Untitled (Armchairs), 2006, oil on canvas, 121.9 cm x 182.9 cm.

Installations are monumental in size

Sudarshan Shetty has been at the pioneering juncture in the contemporary art scene of the country with monumentality in scale of artworks. Now with contemporary artists, the scale of the artwork has assumed newer aesthetic currency as much as the concept and medium, pointing towards a complex framing of what meaning the artwork constitutes and exudes.

From his in-situ commissions or installations, they all possess an enormous scale. Even sometimes the subject in the artwork demands an enormous scale. In No title (from Love), 2006, the stainless steel dinosaur in an effervescent carnage attempts to lift up an antique Jaguar car. This anachronistic installation in itself with the subject of a dinosaur in it de-limits his scale for a grandiose scale.

Sudarshan Shetty, No Title (from Love), 2006, stainless steel, automotive paint and fibreglass.