Abstract art by two Indian women artists on view in Delhi

New Delhi (IANSlife) Bringing together a selection of canvases created by Shobha Broota over the last two decades and recent multimedia flatworks and sculptures that speak of Mekhala Bahls intense engagement with materials and processes, two solo shows on view at the Bikaner House set the stage for a broader deliberation on abstract art practices in the world of contemporary Indian art.

Presented by Gallery Espace, the shows titled, ‘Sutra: Shobha Broota’s Explorations of Thread and Colour’ and ‘shape of a surface — A Solo Exhibition of Recent Work by Mekhala Bahl’ are ongoing till September 14.

By juxtaposing the artworks of the two women artists with highly diverse abstract art practices, the gallery offers a critical view of the historical narrative of abstractionist art practice in the Indian context that has largely been framed by two postulates — the impact of Western artists such as Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, and the New York Abstract Expressionists, and the engagement with indigenous philosophies and texts, and propositions and ideas of mysticism, meditation, and transcendence, through these exhibitions.

1943-born Broota, in her long and celebrated career, has worked in several genres — from the early portraits to woodcuts and etchings in the ’70s and ’80s to the more recent oil and acrylic paintings, and ‘relief’ works where fabric, thread, silk, or wool — sometimes hand-knitted — is stretched across the canvas to create intricate grids and patterns.

According to the gallery, showcasing over 50 paintings and a large body of over 40 drawings in the artist’s first solo in Delhi after a gap of eight years, ‘Sutra’ opens with Broota’s canvases created over the last two decades using everyday materials such as wool, thread, plastic, and other materials.

Acclaimed art critic Ranjit Hoskote writes in his essay, “Having traced an itinerary through figurative painting, portraiture from the life, images of birds, as well as a range of media including print-making, dry pastels, and oils, Broota works solely with a technique that involves flicking paint from a brush onto the surface of the painting with the fingers; neither brushwork nor spraying comes into play.”

‘Shape of a surface’, Mekhala Bahl’s fifth solo show in Delhi, includes multimedia works made between 2016 to 2021 and highlights the artist’s intense engagement with the physical and material processes of printmaking that are at the core of this body of work. She is a New Delhi-based contemporary print-maker trained in Delhi and the US.

Her highly experimental approach — using multiple mediums and bringing together printmaking, painting, and drawing — has been the foundation of her practice for more than two decades and it underlies these works too as she transforms conventionally called ‘flatworks’ or ‘paintings’ into sculptures through the act of layering different materials and utilising multiple methods of mark-making.

Art historian and curatorial advisor of the show, Latika Gupta notes, “Shape of a Surface’ includes three-dimensional objects, and these mark a distinctive evolution of Mekhala’s oeuvre as an artist. The exhibition also includes works that experiment with using photography as a starting point, the surface of which is then layered into a complex abstraction that is as rewarding as it is challenging.”

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