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Details & Cataloguing

Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art

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London

Rameshwar Broota
B.1941
PRISONER OF WAR
Oil on canvas
177 by 125.5 cm. (69 ⅝ by 49 ¼ in.)
Painted in 1987
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Provenance

Acquired directly from the artist on 31 January 1987, one month before its completion

Exhibited

Geneva, Switzerland, Edition Halle Sud, Coups de Coeur, 1987

Literature

Cornu, R., Coups de Coeur, Geneva, 1987, p. 50 illus.

Catalogue Note

The current work from 1987 is from a phase in Rameshwar Broota's career where his focus was on the male form. Yet the men in his paintings were wounded, hardened and often faceless. 'Rameshwar Broota’s Man has, over a period of time, expressed existential anxiety, satire, heroism, and more recently decay.  The male nude has shadowed the artist, from his early youth through creative maturity and middle age.' (A. Jhaveri, A Guide to 101 Modern and Contemporary Indian Artists, India Book House Pvt. Ltd., Mumbai, 2005, p. 22).

The artist has often used his own body as a model to develop a unique technique, which involved applying multiple thin layers of muted colours which he would then manipulate by scratching the surface using linseed oil. This new method was discovered almost by chance when working on a spoilt canvas. Broota covered an old canvas with monochromatic tones and scraped it with the edge of a knife.  Soon he began using a knife and blade to etch the surface and reveal old layers of paint underneath. This highly personalised practice, less painterly in application, has the quality of an early etching, the end result resembling a monumental x-ray. The discovery was important because he carves out his images, going from one stage to the other without depending on any kind of preparatory sketches on paper. On close examination, his large canvases are in fact, immensely intricate drawings. 

"I just took the canvas, stood before the large mirror without clothes, started just doing scratching, scraping with it, and then from morning till evening, I continuously painted... because that had to be finished when it’s wet... I was dreaming throughout the night, it was such a tortuous night... as if I was scraping my own body with the knife... to reveal this thing..." (Y. Dalmia, Journeys Four Generations of Indian Artists in their Own Words, Vol. II, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2011, pp.89-90).

Jhaveri explains the power of Broota’s work is embedded in his construction process, 'Broota’s art relies on a stark simplicity, brevity of statement, and impeccable grasp of detail; and it is these elements, rather than any overarching ideology or aesthetic doctrine that makes it as powerful as it is.' (A. Jhaveri 2005, p.22)

Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art

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London