Bronze with a silver lining


Dimpy Menon

Dimpy Menon  

DIMPY MENON's latest show of bronzes — "Moments" — which concluded at Bangalore's Time and Space Art Gallery on August 18, is a landmark of sorts for her, an arrival; until this show, Dimpy did not title her works, feeling that the viewer's location and state of mind were important in determining how they understood the art work, but now, she feels, she has the right to say, " This is what I want you to think about my work."

When I suggest that it's having reached the forties — the best time of life — Dimpy agrees, and as our conversation progresses, I figure that's the way she is, choosing to look at the brighter, happier side of life. And this persistent positive note, this conscious desire to track down and capture the silver lining in everything is as much a characteristic of the person as it is a trademark of her art.

Thus her tribute to Matisse — drawn from Matisse's "The Conversation", depicting the tension between him and his wife — is reordered to rid it of the confrontational quality and in its stead to bring in a feeling of ease.

" I am very sure I don't want to engage with the negatives, or be crestfallen, I feel that I have had my fair share of the roughs, I came out of all that feeling there must be a reason for everything but also very sure that I wanted that silver lining." As you stand looking at her work, whether it's "Dancer" — which captures the joy of creative expression — or "Mother and Son" — evoking the warmth of human relationships — or "Occultation of Venus 2" — which shows the human ability to experience joy in the universe out there — it all appears to be hinged on this note of affirmation. And this is perhaps the greatest strength of Dimpy's work — the ability to make the viewer experience the feeling of all's-well-with-the-world and to share the ease lying dormant within and all around the human world.

Dimpy's forms radiate a refusal to be uneasy; their limbs, planes of interaction with the surrounding space, the way they stand, sit and recline are all caught in attitudes of deliberate ease. Her human forms don't very form their idealised proportions, pleasant no doubt, but partly also limited by the narrow frame of reference. Dimpy explains that she likes the spare, lean, perfect look, adding that the human form beings like that, but we don't take care of it and it loses those proportions.

Dimpy self-confessedly lives life in moments, delighting in what each offers; she also has simple reasons for choices. A conversation with KALA KRISHNAN RAMESH.

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You started with painting, when and how did you turn to sculpture?

I started with painting. When I went to the Madras College, during which time I was also staying at Cholamandal, my ancillary was sheet metal work, so I had to do that and also it was what could bring in a little money. Then in 1985 to 1986, as part of the curriculum, I began doing bronze casting.

You enjoy sculpture?

I feel that sculpture is the most complete of the fine arts, you need drawing, you need to handle the medium, and you need to understand space, so many things. And I've always been fascinated by the sheer permanency of sculpture. It's sculpture that stands in our public spaces as a part of the basic urban set-up, though in India, sculpture still does not get the same high regard as does painting, though in other parts of the world, sculpture is more valued.

But you did not go straight away into bronze casting, wasn't there a period when you dabbled with other medium?

Yes, after college, I did a lot of etching, a lot of mixed media, acrylic on canvas, many things, but I was also doing sculpture.

Was this phase of mixed media autobiographical?

Yes, that was the time when my mixed media creations appeared with a lot of writing, it was a kind of cleansing period.

Did you pick up any elements of the Cholamandal style?

I was conscious of not wanting to pick up any elements of that style; the time I lived at Cholamandal was the unhappiest period of my life, though I did learn from the experience.

Has travelling influenced your work?

"Urban pastime" ... for the voyeur in us, this is a form of entertainment.

"Urban pastime" ... for the voyeur in us, this is a form of entertainment.  

I believe that there is something universal about art and though we bring the local flavour to works of art, the universal quality persists and this quality, I think, is enhanced by travel.

I always feel a new thrill to see these permanent solid sculptures sitting imposingly in the centers of city life.

Has your style changed over the years? And why this refusal to give features to the faces and limbs?

Yes, the style has changed slowly though not radically.

How I arrived at the present way of depicting the human form was this — I used to do a lot of spot sketching, you know where you sit in a public place and try and capture the things you see in very quick strokes, because everything is moving, it's not posed and so you drop superficial aspects. I think that's when the idea of dropping the facial features came to me. But then it's not a distortion either, because you can see the features there, the mouth breaks up the face and you can see it all there, the eyes, the nose, where she is looking."