EXHIBITION - Expressions by Himmat Shah (Mar 10-Apr 08, 2016) :

Evocative bronze sculptures, masterful works on paper and rare canvases from the mid-2000s form the focus for Expressions by Himmat Shah, an exhibition celebrating the artist’s oeuvre.

Shah was born in 1933 in Lothal, Gujarat, close to ancient Harappan ruins. He trained at the J J School of Arts in Bombay and later in Baroda, followed by a scholarship in Paris. Shah was one of the early members of the artist collective Group 1890, making his mark with an exhibition in 1963 that showcased his drawings. He incorporates diverse influences in his work, drawing upon his personal history, as well as the collective narrative of civilisation. However, he is primarily concerned with the effect that the human presence has upon the earth. In any medium, Shah’s work, according to Sachchidananda Sinha,in the 1979 Lalit Kala Contemporary essay, “The Innocent Eye”, is defined by “either the inscrutability and immensity of the world around us, or the figure of man looking at in agony or wonder. In fact, the eyes that look out in wonder are none else but Himmat’s own.”

A multi-disciplinary artist, Shah immersed himself in many mediums before focussing on sculptures. He worked with terracotta and later moved to cast bronze, creating a distinctive vocabulary that is his own. He is best known for his sculptures of heads, often marked by referential lines and hatches. In An Unreasoned Act of Being, critic Gayatri Sinha has said of his monumental heads, “On their bodies appear marks like those of journeys of the past, like a trail etched out across the Hindukush mountains or the salt flats of Gujarat, perhaps, tread by weary travellers as they traverse a death-defying trajectory. Or, perhaps, they are mammoth puzzles of the human condition and its existential states that defy simple definition.”

This visual patterning is visible across his drawings as well. In these, as Sinha says, “advancing and receding lines weave on the loom of imagination visions of vast space. At other times, they coil into skeins and turn into animal and human forms, without terminating their meanderings. They move on to the surrounding space, to anchor the emerging figures into it.”

A retrospective of Himmat Shah’s work is being held at The Kiran Nadar Museum of Art in New Delhi. Saffronart’s Expressions by Himmat Shah continues the focus on the artist’s range, showcasing Shah’s mastery over many mediums in his constant quest to express the monumental fragility of human existence.

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