Art has a unique way of addressing suffering. When it comes to the climate crisis, art can play a role that sparks hope even in times of utter hopelessness. Manav Gupta continues to inspire this hope the world so desperately needs.
Born in Kolkata, India, Gupta was raised around nature. Child of a single mother, he often found himself surrounded by natural landscapes while trying to take care of his family around the sylvan terrains. When viewing some of his paintings, audiences see first-hand how pertinent nature was throughout his development as an artist. As a byproduct of his art, Gupta also addresses the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of Climate Action by putting human perception of climate action at the forefront of his work, ultimately making bold commentaries about the negative attitudes towards climate change and how one can use hope to address those attitudes.
The painting from his series, Umbilical cords of earth, air, water, fire, space uses oils and acrylics to paint a piece that emphasizes the beauty and complexity of nature. In this work, Gupta uses dreamlike color palettes and silhouettes to portray nature as an ever-evolving organism drenched in mystery and poignancy. When viewing this work, one gets an insight into Gupta’s relationship with nature. As the title of the work suggests, he views nature as a sort of womb, one that graces all of us at some point or another. Like maternal instinct, nature is something human beings are intuitively aware of and cannot escape.
Gupta, however, does not only make observations about nature and its active role within the human condition, he also makes passionate statements about it, as seen in his work, Rainforests and the Timeless Metaphors of Dreams.
In this work, Gupta also uses light in a systematic fashion to make a statement about hope in the face of darkness. The dark tones in the background are immediately contrasted with bright white lights in the center of the painting, almost to convey the message that light exists deep within the voids of existence. Specifically, this hope extends beyond one in a general sense, and is in instead referencing the current climate crisis.
Gupta makes this clear through his scaled projects of sculpture and installations. One project in particular, The Time Machine, illustrates this best. Made with objects from clay, this piece demonstrates the commitment Gupta has to environment consciousness and using hope to invigorate it. Shaped like an hourglass, the artist comments on earth and its limited resources being subjected to time reminding that if society does not take action against the draining of the planet's resources, time will inevitably swallow them.
Despite the imminent severity of this message, it is also prevalent that hope exists deep within it. Presumably, Gupta uses the hourglass figure to suggest that time has not yet run out, and human beings can do something about the waste of earth's resources. “The introduction of light within, by the artist, celebrates the awakening of our consciousness and its potential of hope,” according to India Times.
In an interview with Sculpture Magazine, Gupta further touches on the correlation between hope, art and societal change. Gupta claims that, as a consequence of his artistic ethos, he has the capacity to spark societal change. “[If my art] can add a dab of spiritual context to the world as it takes art and culture as a vehicle of change across boundaries, it makes my artistic process that much more fulfilling.”
With art like the type Gupta makese are given hope. We are given a reason to continue fighting in the face of seemingly inevitable decay. Most importantly, we are bestowed with a sense of individual responsibility to pump air back into the lungs that sustain life as we know it.
Every year, climate change becomes more of an existential threat to the survival of the planet. With governments and large corporations using our resources for production and profit, attitudes about our planet and its potential destruction can lead to pessimistic and cynical worldviews. Artists like Manav Gupta help combat some of these feelings by providing hope to a generation of climate activists. This hope, through the medium of art, can act as a seed that sparks the future of climate action. Gupta, however, cannot do this alone. Creatives concerned about the climate crisis have a duty to continue fuelling the fire of advocacy until one day the fire is larger than any chaos that existed before it. Until that day, artists like Gupta will continue to exist within the liminal bridge where hope animates action.