Rameshwar Broota graduated in Fine Arts from the Delhi College of Art in 1963. He has been Head of Department at Triveni Kala Sangam, New Delhi since 1967. Broota’s early work was characterised by imagery that focused on the corrupt political landscape of 1970s Delhi using satirical, zoomorphised figures. It was during the 1980s that the artist shifted his focus to the more universal subjects of male identity and the human condition.
Helmet (2000) is from Broota’s ‘Unknown Soldier’ series, a subject that first appeared in the artist’s work in the late 1990s. The image of a man emerges from obscurity into a scene dappled with spots of pigmentation, while the details of the eponymous helmet are given startling primacy in the foreground. With its high shine effect and careful delineation, the helmet is posited as a defining feature, particularly in view of its level of detail when compared to its wearer. The near monochromatic palette of the work and its borderline abstraction removes questions of race, place and time. As the helmet is transformed into a symbol for the military function of man, erasure and slippage of individual identity follows.
Broota’s concern with man’s struggle towards individuation is palpable throughout his body of work, and is also reflected in his technique. After layering the canvas with shades of black, grey, brown and ochre, Broota uses a broken razor blade to excavate his images from the surface, as though these are universal truths, hidden in the blackened picture plane. The process of scraping away these dried layers of paint allows the artist to achieve varying degrees of tonality, while the action itself implies a physical breakdown of the superficial: a message which is manifestly related to Broota’s choice of subject.
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