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Updated: March 20, 2012 19:47 IST

Art and the architect

Shruthi Mathews
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Playing with Spaces One of Gautam Bhatia's works. Photo: Special Arrangement
The Hindu Playing with Spaces One of Gautam Bhatia's works. Photo: Special Arrangement

Gautam Bhatia's works are a curious and playful rendering of spaces

Architect, artist and writer Gautam Bhatia is a nice gentleman, and some of his art is really very funny. His exhibition ‘Earth Shadows' cuts across a broad swathe of styles: bronze sculpture explores the mobility of the human form, ink drawings reveal his rather fantastical architectural contemplations and the surreal miniature watercolours — well, I'm not quite sure what they do, but they're very funny.

Although perhaps this isn't the sort of art you'd expect from an architect — there's a tennis court placed on an intercut abdomen of a naked female body; doors open into buildings that plummet into the ground rather than up into the sky, and the Golden Temple floats in a bowl of soup — it's a topsy-turvy Dali meets Carroll sort of landscape. The figures are diminutive, and the physical spaces that contain them are large and farcical — there is a house inside a car, and so on.

Bhatia's watercolours work on a simple fulcrum of inversion; gesturing at a painting depicting the cross section of a sleek, shiny red car revealing multi storey living areas within it, he explains: “Well, you usually park the car in the house, this is the house in the car.” He talks through these paintings with the straightest of faces, and even seems a little surprised when I laugh. “These are pictures that I drew a while ago,” he continues, “They're quite personal. When I did them I had no intention for them to later be filled in with colour. But I asked Shankar Bopal — who is excellent at miniature painting and also someone I've worked with before — if he would colour them in for me. Initially he was quite scandalised by their content and nature, but he eventually agreed to do it.”

“Drawing is a great medium to be experimental,” says Bhatia. “You don't have to build it, just draw it. I don't see the point in drawing something that I could build. I see it as a rendering of ideas that are so outrageous that actually sometimes they make sense. As an architect you always begin by deciding what's contained inside, but with drawing there's no limits.”

Bhatia's whimsical little world of inversions is seen mainly in his drawings. His sculpture looks at capturing the individual frames of movement of the human body, and highlighting the dynamism of the body in the static form of sculpture. Here you see the several figurations of the contorted body, or the body as stretched to its limits in arcs or contracted into its smallest possible space when curled up and enveloping itself. The exhibition is a varied one — small sculptured figures leap, stretch and dance, and colourful architectural objects are hyperbolically and fantastically depicted on paper. Bhatia's work is a curious and frequently playful rendering of the spaces our bodies inhabit and the way that we inhabit them, as well as a glance at the architectural constraints and spaces we move in and out of often so blithely

(The exhibition is on at Apparao Galleries, 7 Wallace Gardens, 3rd Street until April 7)

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