"Excavations: Evocations""

An exhibition of sculptures by the celebrated artist Himmat Shah has started in the capital city of India. Delhi-based Anant Art Gallery is hosting a solo show that features his sculptures.

Critics have always acclaimed Himmat Shah's works. His new set of terracotta works has received rave reviews too. Speaking about his latest creations, he commented: "My extensive travel to various regions within India has evoked a distinct sense of space and form and the outcome is a story that each piece holds,"

According to the curator of the show Roobina Karode, this show is about the experiences of a nomad who knows the art of transforming objects of everyday life into brilliant art forms. On the eve of the show, Himmat Shah also presented a slide show that summed up his artistic quest over the last five decades.

Himmat Shah has translated his modernist assertions into many experiments and achievements- monumental drawings, burnt paper collages and large murals in abstract. The exhibition provides a glimpse of his artistic qualities, and provides the viewer an insight into his thought processes.

The artist has gone by his instinct, intent on developing his own idiom. He is one of India's most versatile contemporary artists, whose art and life are exemplary of a true modern spirit. Over last four decades or so, he has continued to work on innovative forms by experimenting with material like bronze, ceramic, terracotta or stone.

The artist started at an early age. When he was just about 10 years old, he ran away from home to live in a jungle. In fact, according to the septuagenarian sculptor, an individual 'gain experience during childhood, which you can really count on for your creativity.'

Indeed, as a child, he used to observe the magic of nature keenly ' the hopping birds, leaving behind a trail of cross-hatched feet markings, the unadulterated fun of running around village ponds, and so on. The lovely memories childhood has served as an inspiration to the artist to create his fantastic images later.

This versatile artist is fascinated by the earthiness of the terracotta medium. He loves inscribing his forms progressively with invented and impressed textures that are absorbed beautifully by the moist clay. The solo show by the artist brings sculptors into focus again as the art form.

His works on view amply bring out various facets of his oeuvre that has followed an unconventional path, while using a medium which is exhaustible and a technique, which demands sensitive and careful handling. In some of his works one can decipher his attempt to amalgamate the three - dimensional with the two - dimensional, creating, in the process, unique artworks. The works are rich in form and texture.

He is known for his superb sculptures that establish a world, incorporating various diverse elements of physical and visual references that balance out each other. Only a keen eye and intense inspection can spot the chemistry among them as they are juxtaposed against each other. There is a certain sense of contradiction and delightful tension that holds a viewer.

The core of his work is defined by his unmatched spontaneity and dynamism. When Himmat Shah sets on the uncharted course of creation, utility objects serve him as a source of the humorous interplay of his creative moods. The artist creates simple forms out of them that convey an entirely new visual meaning. So, a broken, upside-down teapot becomes an elephant calf with a raised snout, and an empty bottle becomes a fossilized background for a self-portrait. Himmat Shah's structures are a byproduct of his meticulous thought process and equally elegant execution.

The artist all these decades has been devoted to the art of sculpting. He has been striving to make his sculptures look time-worn. His technique of 'ageing' them in jute sacks to gain their unique textures is something that sets him apart. He even uses the clay that is sometimes more than 10 years old to make them. Then he subjects it to the pouring rain to rot, to achieve the finesse and plasticity he wants.

His artistic philosophy is uncomplicated. He considers both life and art as an adventure led by experiments; an engagement that never ceases. The show brings to the fore what the artist has achieved in his extraordinary career. His creative abilities coupled with his undying zest to experiment are on display.

'Excavations: Evocations' show by by artist Himmat Shah continues at Anant Art Gallery, New Delhi, till December 27, 2005.

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