The Human Figure

The Human Figure, a major show at New Delhi's Lalit Kala Akademi, which just concluded, was an attempt to review the directions taken by mid-generation Indian contemporary artist such as Himmat Shah, Dhruva Mistry, G Ravinder Reddy, NN Rimzon, Navjot, Alex Mathew, Ravi Shah, Shanthi Swaroopini, Jehangir Jani, Subba Ghosh, Karl Antao, Smitha Cariappa, Ebenezer Sunder Raj, Pankaj Panwar, Iranna GR and TV Santosh.

The common binding thread in the work of these 18 artists was their desire to get vocal through their creations about the broader concerns for the human condition. According to Bangalore based Marta Jakimowicz, the curator of the show, the exhibition was about the 'intimate context' that artists operate within.

As an introductory note mentioned: 'Among the contemporary idioms of visual multimedia, photography, and installation art, sculpture seeks to reassert its position. In the past it has never got its due by the art galleries who just promote paintings. This exhibition brings several major and less familiar, serious sculptors for whom figuration is central, visualizing the diverse aspects and purposes it acquires in their individual work. It evokes the anchoring of our experience, perception and sensitivity in knowing human beings.'

The noteworthy works on view comprised Ways of Relief and Half the Truth - on egon schilie ' (Acrylic on Wood Relief) by Alex Mathew; Dhruva Mistry's Expulsion of pain with reclining figure (Inkjet on flex and stainless steel); Maya in Blue and Spatial Diagram (Stainless steel,acrylic, wood and glass); D. Ebenezer Sundar Singh's Homage to Daedalus (Fibreglass,Resin,Pigments); Himmat Shah's work in bronze; Jehangir Jani's Prayer 1 and 2 (Enamel tray ,fiberglass, surgical gauze, charcoal, stainless steel, salt simulated blood); and Make sure you are breathing (Fibreglass and jute bag) by Iranna G R.

Navjot's Who's Measuring whom (Indigo & acrylic on fibreglas) and Inner Winner (Acrylic on fiber glass); Karl Antao's What are we growing (Teakwood and cast iron painted with oils) and other creations; Pankaj Panwar's Battle Of Angels (Fibreglass); N N Rimzon's Art in journey (Fiber glass and suitcases) and G Ravinder Reddy's creations were equally striking.

The elaborate exhibition was divided in three sections. The first one, titled 'Between life and art history' featured creations by Dhruv Mistry, Himmat Shah, Rimzon, Reddy and Navjot. Dhruv Mistry's Reclining figure in stainless steel was homage to Picasso. Another section, titled 'The figure of metaphor', comprised works by artists Pankaj Panwar, Karl Antao, Shanthi Swaroopini, Ebenezer Sunder Raj, Iranna G R, Jehangir Jani and Pritpal Singh Ladi.

These highlighted the human predicament. Slim female figures by Shanti Swaroopini, cast in metal, served as an expression of her personal trauma, pain and loss of identity, which she experienced at different stages of her life. The participating artists viewed themselves at a more personal level through the works. Elaborate stone monuments, complete with steel dragonflies and hindless frogs by Prithpal Singh Ladi were artistic sketches of a personal loss. Jehagir Jani's work 'Prayers' intended to invoke an urge to preserve our innate innocence.

Elaborating on the show and its underlying theme, the curator noted: 'If the human figure preoccupies so many contemporary artists, it is because we receive even most abstract and idea-based experiences through our embodied souls."

One of the participating artists, Subba Ghosh, quipped: "Unlike paintings which are illusionary in nature, human figures showed in three dimension media like sculptures, evoke real emotions." Video work Scratchman by the sculptor (self-featured) showed the artist scratching his various body parts. The film that bordered on sarcasm formed part of the third section, which focused on real body and direct depiction of expression.

Among other notable works in this section was the live installation performance, Bagged, by eminent sculptor and danseuse Smitha Carriapa. The artist here participated as subject and object and enacted for the live installation. The works on view as a whole evoked the anchoring of our experience, perception and sensitivity in knowing human beings.

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