India inspires Gerry Judah with its beauty and deprivation

Bengal by Gerry Judah for Tipping Point at Wolverhampton Art Gallery in association with Christian A

Bengal by Gerry Judah for Tipping Point at Wolverhampton Art Gallery in association with Christian Aid. - Credit: Archant

A trip back to the land of his birth led Gerry Judah to create art focusing on its contrasts

Many may see India as a fast rising, thriving economy, but as Gerry Judah discovered, all is not what it seems there. Born in West Bengal, the Highgate artist had not returned in fifty years, but a trip there last year left Judah in a particularly uncomfortable climate.

“It’s getting a reputation around the world of being the new growing economy,” says Judah, whose trip inspired a new five-set sculpture collection, Bengal, part of the climate change-themed Tipping Point exhibition at Wolverhampton Art Gallery until July 6.

“We all have our phone calls dealt with in India; we’re watching the Indian economy boom. People are buying fabulous houses, the metropolis is getting bigger, but amongst all of that I found there were communities living on the edge of poverty.”

Studying in particular the effects of climate change, Judah found a landscape scarred by drought and carbon emissions from coal-fired power stations. Farmers living nearby struggle to grow crops because of the barren ground but receive none of the power station’s energy.

How then does his artwork, commissioned by Christian Aid, reflect such an imbalance?

“The sculptures are showing the beauty of India amongst the degradation of India. I am using structures – temples, pylons, religious artefacts – but giving them a twist, showing them as part of poverty and as part of a climatic change. There’s a temple which is very beautiful, ornate in Bengal, but it’s made out of coal and ash.”

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Indeed, the beauty in the collection stands out as much as the harshness. For despite the extreme conditions, Judah was struck by the kindness of the people around him.

“The farmers were amazing,” he says. “They were gracious, they were hospitable, industrious and trying very hard to not just better their lives under the most adverse conditions but also to stay together as a community.”

Tipping Point also features work by former Turner Prize winner Simon Starling and former Turner nominees Darren Almond and Anya Gallaccio.

n For more of Judah’s work see and