Artists

Some soul is liberated even while in the womb, another while being born; a third whether he be a boy or a youth or an old man.

A soul born as a lower species, a soul undergoing torture in hell, a soul achieving a heavenly region may be liberated on its way.

Some soul may return after the enjoyment of the heavens and then be liberated on its way.

Hence there is no stipulated mode or order in the attainment of liberation.

- Shiva Purana Vayari Samhita [Vol 4]

Most artists commit themselves to the enduring challenge of drawing from the imagination. Rameshwar Broota continually revises the way he looks at man himself. In a career spanning four decades Broota has moved from images of existential anxiety to sharp satire to a classic heroism, which settles tantalizingly close to the edge of hope and despair. In the process he compels a revision of the notion of the heroic to embrace, rather than exclude, the ordinary.

However, even this claim may be contested. Broota’s central subject is man, through whose tensions and aspirations, lusts and endeavours, the greater issues of life are meditated. God is indifferent or distant, the human ‘other’ is absent; the solitary male becomes the site for conflict and resolution. Through repeated acts of resistance, the male body, with its skeletal frame or stolid musculature, plays out its postures of acceptance or confrontation.

Broota speaks of his painting with undiluted simplicity even as he locates himself firmly within the ordinariness of the vast Indian middle class. His mythico- classic figures, in the words of Keshav Malik, have their genesis not as legatees of a grand tradition but in the travails of the ordinary and the unknown, whom he invests with an unlikely heroism. Particularly in the last decade or so, the affirmative gesture of striving, of pushing the body into unpredictable spaces vests his figure with a determined stoicism.

Yet there is an extraordinary simplicity that guides Broota’s intentions. At no point in his career has he taken an ideological position other than a broadly humanistic view. The present series of four paintings mark a distinct change in the artist’s ouvre. For two years now, Broota has used the computer as a means to sift through hundreds of images and their compositional possibilities. One of the consequences of this relentless pursuit is the extreme close up, of the bodily frame that becomes the locus for Broota’s philosophy of man. Perhaps for the first time, the figure is palpably at the edge of crisis. There is an imminence of tragedy in that the source of threat - architectural forms of man’s own creating - are on view. The void of the past is now dominated by massive concrete angularities and chains. Even here, the artist refuses firmly to locate the sources of conflict. The use of the architectural construct as suggestive rather than identified form heightens the nature of the threat. Its externality, its source, its means of propulsion are not clear. But its massive presence blocks all forward movement and can only be resisted if jagged stone tears through onrushing flesh.

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