Spotlight Art

In 3D: a celebration of the physicality of sculpture

Himmat Shah photographed in his youth by Jyoti Bhatt.

Himmat Shah photographed in his youth by Jyoti Bhatt.  

A recently concluded exhibition showcased various materials, techniques and preoccupations of 11 sculptors

When Indian sculptor Himmat Shah created his bronze heads of the 1970s, he went to the foundry in France that was used by the great Modern Master, the Romanian, Constantin Brâncuși. He believed that the attention to detail and technical prowess that could be achieved in France at the time could not be paralleled in India.

Today, that may not be the case, but sculptors are still hard-pressed to find technically excellent foundries to create their works and are often left to their own resources.

Sculpture, unlike painting which relies on trompe l’oeil (French for deceive the eye) to create depth and perspective, is realised in the third-dimension. Most sculptors share a very close relationship with their materials because of the corporeality and the physicality of their works.

The recently concluded exhibition, ‘iSculpt’, at India International Centre in New Delhi’s King-Gandhi Memorial Sculpture Park, showcased various materials, techniques and preoccupations of 11 sculptors.

According to curator Uma Nair, “iSculpt part II was about materials, about fantasy, about respecting the work of those who toil for years. I didn’t just choose big names, I chose names that had something to say. I believe sculpture has to be born of the spirit.”

Divided into contemporary installations and modern sculptures, the exhibition showcased names like the elusive Himmat Shah, Satish Gupta, Vipul Kumar, Latika Katt and Puneet Kaushik, alongside others like Biman Das, G. Reghu, Nimesh Pilla, Simran K.S. Lamba and Sonia Sareen.

Jigyasu, a stone sculpture by Vipul Kumar.

Jigyasu, a stone sculpture by Vipul Kumar.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Nair has been an admirer of the Gujarat-born Shah’s work since the time she first saw his work. “I had gone to see Jyoti Bhatt’s show of intaglios in Vadodara and I saw a sculpture by Himmat Shah in his house that was riveting. I consider Himmat a true modernist. His language and sensibility are a beautiful blend of the past and present. I love his signature of unpredictable archetypes. That is why I chose him,” she says.

While scouting for sentinel pieces for the exhibition, Nair saw two sculptures by Shah in gallerist R.N. Singh’s collection and asked him if he would loan them for the show.

The works are two stylised heads, accentuated by the bony ribcage, shoulders, sprouting into a long neck. The oval head has a mask-like quality and is expressive only by its huge eyes that float at the top of the face. The work is a tour de force and expresses Shah’s early figurative phase. The other is a more geometric work that essays form through the formalism of blocks and cubes that emerge as a visage.

After many years of reticence, Shah has re-emerged into the limelight, with a retrospective at Kiran Nadar Museum of Art followed by a chapter in Jaipur at Jawahar Kala Kendra. For those who missed both shows, there is a two-volume book titled The Euphoria of Being with essays by Roobina Karode and Pooja Sood. Shah is preparing for another show at the State Museum of Bhopal.

Vipul Kumar is another sculptor whose work has a close relationship with material. He used to work in stone and recently experimented with ceramics. He too shares a special bond with Shah. Nair recalls how Bhatt created a printing press and a small place for Shah to stay when the latter was struggling as a young artist.

“He was my mentor,” says Kumar, “and sometimes when we met, he would tell me that we are among the few sculptors left who still work with their hands on their pieces. For him and for me, the hand of the artist is so important. The relationship with material, the joy of discovery, it is most important for me.” Kumar recently held a well-received solo exhibition of ceramics in the capital.

Om made from metallic sheets by Satish Gupta.

Om made from metallic sheets by Satish Gupta.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

A detail from the 12-ft-tall Rudra Shiva by Satish Gupta.

A detail from the 12-ft-tall Rudra Shiva by Satish Gupta.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Kumar’s large studio and kiln in Bhainslana, on the outskirts of Jaipur, is home to many experimental works created from a plethora of mediums and materials like clay, stoneware and grog. For this exhibition, Kumar contributed a work in sandstone from his geometric series. Titled ‘A Philosophical Question’ it has two spheres that sit atop rectangular cuboids, where one shape appears to melt into the other. It can be seen as a metaphor for creation and mutation.

Satish Gupta straddles the sacred and the sublime and had three works in the exhibition. One was a 12-feet Rudra Shiva on a pedestal, which recalled the myth where Shiva appears to Brahma and Vishnu as a pillar of flames in the shape of a lingam. Gupta captured it through a Zen texturing of clouds replete with their own primordial rhythms.

He also evoked Shiva in the second sculpture, while the third work was a mesmeric Om created with minimalist metallic sheets. “My work is about savouring its own epoch in a world that must look at mythic stories and partake of their strength and mystique,” says the sculptor.

Bengaluru artist G. Reghu brought three arresting ceramic works from his ongoing tryst with tribal signatures. Landscape architect Ankon Mitra’s origami piece was a magical piece of folding from the artist whose work just showed at the Paper Biennale in Italy and at Art Stage Singapore. ‘Leap of Faith’ by Nimesh Pilla Amarnath was a fabulous example of the understanding of human anatomy, along with the fantastical belief that mankind aspires to fly on the wings of dreams beyond the mundane.

Sonia Sareen’s tree spirit sculpture.

Sonia Sareen’s tree spirit sculpture.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Among contemporary artists were Puneet Kaushik’s installation, a miasma of mixed media corollaries created of thread and twigs in a creation that swept like a creeper across one of the most beautiful trees in the Gandhi-King Plaza.

Biman Das, master sculptor, mentor and now president of All India Fine Arts and Crafts Society, was represented by a beauteous Krishna in bronze. Sonia Sareen’s two sculptural heads embodied tree spirits, Pattrini and Bhavanamayi, two beauteous women born of the soil and roots.

This January end, we can look forward to many of these sculptors showing at India Art Fair.

The writer is a critic-curator by day, and a creative writer and visual artist by night.

Why you should pay for quality journalism - Click to know more

Related Topics
Recommended for you
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Feb 26, 2020 3:19:35 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/art/in-3d-a-celebration-of-the-physicality-of-sculpture/article25911219.ece

Next Story