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The National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) Sculpture Retrospective 1996
Published in Asian Sculpture News 1996, Editor – Ian Findlay-Brown. This magazine became World Sculpture News.
I was published in the "Reviews" section.
By Debora K-M (aka Debora Alanna/ Miss Debora)
PLEASE NOTE: The links below seldom refer to the specific work described in this review.
The National Gallery of Modern Art
(NGMA) invited Latikat Katthttp, professor at the Jamia Millia Islamia University Jamia Nagar, New Delhi to curate an ambitious show of sculpture with work from the HGMA dating from 1833 to the present. The exhibition has revealed an extensive sculpture collection. The last comprehensive sculpture show the NGMA presented was in 1953 when the museum was inaugurated. Professor Katt, an instructor at the Jamil University successfully shows she understands the importance of revitalizing the public’s awareness of its modern sculptural heritage.
Intrinsically steeped in tradition, the consistent theme of this show as revealed in the sculpture is the artists’ experience that they are part of society that can draw from tradition but also must create something new for the world. This show is an overview of work from the last 50 years, produced in various materials and genres. The artists evoke pride in the crafts of the past, traditional materials, as well as show an evolution of sensibilities that sculptors are concerned with this century.
There are some stars in this show.
Abanindranath Tagor carved Personage in wood in 1940. His playful yet austere miniature is an icon that pays homage to the complexity of the Indian character.The wistful harlequinade-like work called Musical Construction (’67) by Dhanraj Bhagat combines the understanding of an Indian musical heritage with that of the experimentation of the 60’s international analytical musical musings.Balbir Singh Katt’s (’67) piece When Man and Woman Perverted from His Glory (wood and stone) is the first work in the collection that used two disparate materials. The strength of this juxtaposition indicates the lead given to the blunt inception of the idea of self consciousness.Several sculptures in the show exemplify India’s concern with the animal world. The carved Animal by Nagi Patel (’74) attends to India’s devotional ancestry to the animal realm. In Memory of the Lost Cow by Rajinder Tikki (’91) is most poignant; it is a testament to the future of India.The developmental change in social history is perceived by S.G. Vidya Saakar in Mgail (’89) where an ornamental metal tree supports a woman on a swing. The hands of the swinger are dismembered.The Pink Marble by Ramesh Pateria is a vertically positioned stone that is gouged, sawn, worn – evident is the pain of technological penetration, the affects mechanism has on traditional material and philosophy of art practise. 1994 Emerging by Gyan Singh adeptly addresses the theme of autonomy.Deity by J. Swarminathan elegantly and poetically discloses spiritual wisdom.View Through Emotion (’95) explicitly orders the chaos that this emerging national character is experiencing. Mrigendra Pratap Singh, with objectivity and gentility puts a rational matrix on intense disorder.Madan Lal’s untitled marble and Brij Mohan Sharma’s untitled work acknowledges the consistent Indian capacity for sensuality and exoticism.
Professor Katt’s vision of India’s contemporary sculptural astuteness is not only evident from work chosen from the NGMA but is revealed in her own work, also part of the collection. Growth (’80) signifies the struggle and frustration of independence from preconceptions is experience, a challenge to all artists of the 21st century. A stunning, wood and leather bound catalogue, designed by Professor Katt, accompanies this show.
I highly recommend this exhibition.
1996 Thiruvananthapuram, India
Sculptor Aryanad Rajendram is a 35-year-old Thiruvananthapuram artist that has recently carved a meticulously realistic portrait of the father of Greek medicine, Herodotus for the Medical College of Thiruvananthapuram. He has an additional commission there to carve another portrait, which he has begun with a more geometric panache than the highly graphic Herodotus bust. The second work is organized with exactitude, the rectangularity is precise. Yet this diversion of style cannot prepare the viewer for Rajendram’s contribution to the group show at the Thiruvananthapuram Museum Auditorium this past November. The transformation, a sculpture titled We, Leaders and Money is 3 feet of green coloured plaster of Paris, and exorcized tirade on the artist’s relationship to those artists that have (the money).
The murky green of this piece is the colour of resent, of jealousy. The leaders are watchful of their bounty, ‘We’ are resentful of their spoils.
The colour of the work can also be interpreted as the raw greenness that the work also projects – the easily deceived, inexperienced public, the unprepared, culturally untrained politicians, the artist’s new practice of emoting.
‘We’ (that don’t have the money) are heads squashed by a hierarchy of totemically arranged leaders. The totem also extends to protrusions that effectively look like an orthodox crucifix. An upwards growth and extension of power of the leaders is an affliction to be borne.
A moneybag, larger than any head, balances on the contorted upper most head of the ‘leaders’. The features of the leaders become more gargoyle-like as they move up to the top. The head directly under the money is almost unrecognizable in its twisting out from human shape. Money is in their domain, high above ‘we’, and the weight of it distorts their vision, their intelligence. Justification has influenced and depressed the attributes the leaders once had.
The thrust of the manipulation of the contorted faces, the abandon of craft and precision for volatile expressiveness makes the viewer wonder whether the same sculptor produced the stone and the plasterwork. There is no dispute that he did. The question is, is the subject of the plaster the reason the stone sculpture does not render more exuberance? The stone carving is of the utmost sincerity, the control exercised is not ridged – the features are exquisite.
There is an obvious restraint in the artist’s stone output. He surges to embody his frustrations, such as those exhibited in We the Leaders and Money. For example, although the work visually describes the significance of money, poised at the top of the sculpture, the artists’ anger prohibits a consistent fluidity of spirit in his work. Yet knowing the sculpture this artist has previously executed, one can only applaud the vivacity he has allowed himself to display and hope the lively energy will extend to his carving endeavours.
We, Leaders and Money is currently on display at the Salyan Art Gallery, Thiruvananthapuram.