Saturday, July 9, 2011

A printmaker-sculptor with unusual techniques and themes

Himmat Shah’s work is a fine blend of inspirations shaped by both Indian tradition and western influences. His stay at Atelier 17 in Paris allowed him to discover the captivating canon of western art.

He is known more for his abstracted terracotta and bronze heads, considered his signature work. Among his most recognizable works is the series of sculpted heads in bronze and terracotta. As emblems of masculinity, they appear totemic and phallic wherein he uses printmaking techniques to score the surfaces.

In fact, his reputation as a master sculptor has become so overwhelming that his ability as a printmaker has almost gone unnoticed. His color etchings are equally attention-grabbing. For example, at first glance, one of them may bring to your mind an updated Monet haystack often protected from the gusty wind with a ubiquitous covering of sticks, cloth and other assorted debris.

But are we actually seeing objects laid right on top of this piled up chara, or checking objects that are embedded deep within? His haystack displays a sculptor's sensitivity and meticulousness of form building and a draftsman's astute attention to the fine subtleties of line. Even the coloration of his much-used terracotta quietly seeps into his deceptively simple etching works.

Among his select participations are ‘Manifestations IV and V', Delhi Art Gallery (2011, 10); ‘Time Unfolded', KNMA, Delhi (2011); 'The Intuitive: Logic Revisited', Davos, Switzerland (2011); 'Yellow Deity', Museum of Contemporary Art, Budapest (1997); 'Rediscovering the Roots', Meseo de la Nacion, Lima, Peru (1997); Festival of India exhibit, London (1982); Biennale de Paris (1970, 1967), and National Exhibition at LKA, Delhi (1960).

A recipient of Kalidasa Samman of the Madhya Pradesh Government (2003) and AIFACS Award, Delhi (1996), he also received Emeritus Fellowship from Government of India (1994-96), the Sahitya Kala Parishad Award, Delhi (1988); the Fellowship to Outstanding Artists (1983-85) from the Bombay Art Society Award (1962) and the LKA award for painting, Delhi (1962, 1959).

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