Rameshwar Broota's blade and a painted canvas

Rameshwar Broota conjures up his images all with the blade. He uses hundreds of them to finish each work. Of course, this is just one facet of the Delhi-based painter who continues to experiment. When the video camera was still an innovation in the early eighties, the artist made some interesting experimental films using the camera almost as a brush. He has also tried out body painting the performers of a mime company in the film.

The works (ranging from 6 to 12 ft) of this Delhi based artist are showcased at Vadhera Art Gallery that has just hosted a solo show of his. Broota is also participating in a group show by Palette at IHC Visual Arts Gallery that happens in the second week of February. The exhibition includes the paintings and glass sculpture by the artist apart from the works of Surinder, Vasundhara Tewari Broota, Hemi Bawa, Jagdish Chauder, Sanjay Roy, Shruti Gupta Chandra, etc.

Rameshwar Broota does not impose his images onto the pictorial space. Using a 'nick-blade' technique, he scrapes a pre-painted canvas with a blunt knife, evacuating his motifs from its depths. It was by sheer accident that the painter discovered his now signature style of working with a blade on painted canvas. In the eighties, he at the spur of a moment painted the entire canvas a dark green and blocked out all the images. And then slowly scrapped it with a palette knife. The result surprised the artist himself, as an etched figure emerged. Broota worked on the technique further. Now, the slightest movement of blade over canvas becomes part of the composition.

Broota evolved a technique of painting mostly in monochrome: On the canvas surface, usually painted in matte black, he works with a sharp, thin blade to bring in light and forms, exposing the white surface below, creating deep spatial dimensions.

The painter counts his works dealing with 'Man' and the 'forces of nature' among his favorites. During a phase of his career, his imagery embraced the primitive Man ' tragic, raw and stark - that symbolized the universality of the subject. In this phase he focuses on monumental humans, wounded, hardened and somehow dehumanized. In some paintings he shows man against a forbidding wall on which appear illegible hieroglyphics, suggesting the inscrutable destiny of man. 'The mysteries of nature and the scars suffered by man at the hands of destiny, the overwhelming, incomprehensible workings of nature haunt me and demand an expression. Over the years that feeling has been toned down. Now there is a certain mystic quality to my paintings, ' he has been quoted as saying. His Gorilla series tried to depict a pre-human reality typified by a terrifying brutality.

The icons and images are all part of his subconscious self, he reveals, and at times he may have seen them in reality. As an artist, he feels that he may choose to reveal or recreate the immediate reality, but he also mulls over the inexhaustible past. "The unconscious is a store house of immense knowledge and impressions which an individual absorbs and retains with him. An infant inherits the sum total of the experiences of his predecessor from time immemorial," he points out.

As a child there was no specific subject or form-the impulsion to draw was the most exciting, he recounts. Born in 1941 Broota graduated from the Delhi College of Art and later became a faculty member there. Broota has represented India at the III, IV and V Triennales held in India and the II Havana Biennale held in Cuba in 1986. He has also exhibited his work at the Museum of Modern Art in Oxford, the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington and the Damstadt Museum in Germany. He is a recipient of the National Award of the Lalit Kala Akademi in 1980, 1981 and 1984.

As stated above, his early oil paintings, showing, 'humanized' gorillas, were corrosively satirical and showed the artist's concern for the socio-moral being of man. The artist is particularly known for his paintings of muscular male bodies. After painting these bodies, he vigorously scrapes them with the help of a sharp knife, to give them a luminous, almost translucent look. Over the years, he has perfected the technique in which he first applies paint layers of different hues, and then scratches and scrapes away the upper surface of the painting with the help of a sharp knife.

His highly personalized technique, less painterly in application of paint, has the quality of a graphic print. Broota was once known for his formal portraiture. His painting of former president VV Giri is in the precincts of Parliament, He has done a few self-portraits as well.

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