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To play is to grow

Shambhu Shastri's works suggest that discovering the child within is the way to grow mature

Shambhu Shastri's ability to conceive ideas is extraordinary.

SAMPLES OF art objects on display at the Chitrakala Parishat last week offered a curious but endearing smattering of mischief, humour, and playfulness. At the same time, allusions to some disturbing signals of the hostile and intolerant times we live in could not be missed. "These `arty facts' are a search for the child in us to get rid of the childishness," explained artist Shambhu Shastri in his one his works on display, titled Contradictionary.

Thirty-year-old Shambhu, who was born in Honnavar (Uttara Kannada), holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in sculpture from Chitrakala Parishat, Bangalore, and M.S. University, Baroda, respectively. Recipient of several scholarships and awards, including the National Scholarship, Indian Inlaks Foundation Scholarship, Logo Design Award instituted by the National Commission for Women, and K.K. Hebbar Art Foundation Award, Shambhu has participated in art exhibitions and group shows in Bangalore and Baroda. Arty Facts, his first solo exhibition, had a weeklong stint at Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai, before moving to Bangalore.

Engaging works

Among the objects in the exhibition, which were engaging not only by the physical structuring but also in their "behaviour", was Present, where Shambhu cajoled the viewer into playing a puzzle game of moveable squares, even as the static reflection below the table and a fallen piece by the side made a witty understatement. In Movement, a sequence of identical images of Mahatma Gandhi swirled in a circular container in consonance with a rotating wheel (the charkha). Stained Glass also made an obvious but symbolic reference to the Father of the Nation by detailing his trademark spectacles and smattering it with stains of blood.

Balance was a slightly brassy work where religious symbols were intriguingly conjoined and tantalisingly poised.

The rough and sharp edges of the metal pieces welded together did, however, make a point. Parallel Lines, on the other hand, afforded an unusual way of looking at the tricolour.

While standing cohesively at the top, strands of colourful thread started to get entwined and entangled as they come down, before falling in a huge heap to lose their distinct identity.

Of the anthem

The most striking piece of the exhibition was New Town's Theory, which featured a circular disc on which was engraved the first few lines of the national anthem in different languages; the disc itself stood at an angle, supported by a wooden pivot in the middle.

In Contradictionary, Shambhu played with words to produce some witty and amusing statements.

"Indian ink is my favourite colour," he said in one of the quotes. "It's from China and permanently black." Modernisation gave him diverse choices because his "corpse can be burnt on a pyre or in an electric cremation". Shambhu's closing statement seemed to sum it all: "I may not get any happy returns for my works. But the show must go on."

The exhibition gave hints about Shambhu Shastri's talent and ability to conceive ideas, which were out of the ordinary and experimental.

Hopefully, his future works will retain the playfulness, but also echo a deeper and more serious exploration of the reality and his interpretation of it.


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