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The creative force

All the world's an egg


Centennial exhibitions are heavyweight occasions by any yardstick, but when the exhibition combines a centenary tribute to master Indian sculptor Prodosh Das Gupta with a tribute to 80 years of sculpting by Sarbari Roy Choudhury, it becomes an embarrassment of riches. Even the scale of this exhibition, in terms of the number of sculptures - there are more than a hundred - is something of a record. According to Dr Sudhakar Sharma, secretary, Lalit Kala Akademi, "In the many decades of showcasing art, such a large body of sculptures sourced from individual outputs is a historic first among the many exhibitions held at the Akademi. "

Das Gupta and Roy Choudhury were known for their ingenuity in confabulating sculptures around the plasticity form, and the show derives its name Contours and Volumes from this essential standpoint of the duo's creative force.

Born exactly a century ago, Prodosh Das Gupta was a founder-member of the Calcutta Group, a reaction to the imitative methodology of sculpting of the forties. After his initial training at the Chennai and Lucknow schools of art, he moved to Paris and London. His protêgê, Sarbari Roy Choudhury, trained at the MS University in Baroda. Both men travelled widely in Europe and were influenced by the masters of the era, such as Henry Moore and Giacometti. While Prodosh Das Gupta was curator and director of the National Gallery of Modern Art, Delhi, from 1957 to 1970, Sarbari Roy Choudhury lived in Santiniketan and nutured contemporary talents such as the sculptor K S Radhakrishnan.

The display must be saluted for bringing to the public eye so many of their legendary masterpieces. In the case of Prodosh Das Gupta viewers are privy to his characteristic egg-shaped bronze-and-metal creations in works such as Sun Worshippers, where three standing egg figures have their faces upturned in a gesture of celestial worship. In the numerous depictions of the motherand-child theme, formed into images of tactile smoothness and fluid lines, one can see the influence of a western aesthetic on an eastern lyricism. The solitary egg form Genesis evokes a symbolic depiction of the entire process of creation through Das Gupta's masterly treatment of solid material.

Sarbari Roy Choudhury's technique of sculpting creates smallscale forms inspired largely from classical music. The forms depicting Ustad Bade Gulam Ali Khan rendering his compositions, for instance, cut away at the material and bring forth on the facial features a musical rhythm strummed out in stone. The figures have a strong link with a modeling tradition but in Roy Choudhury's hands, the craft-linked superficiality deepens to more sensitive interpretations. Even when the themes are downright every day, such as Combing her Hair or Me and My Mother, they evoke a delicate blending of eastern realism and western abstraction.

Bringing the works of the two masters to a single platform was a conscious decision of the exhibition's coordinator Reena Lath. "Both these artists were extremely soulful people, " she says. "They are inclined towards a language that is very personal. A show of this magnitude is not about numbers or expertise. It is also a landmark link from a period of transformation when western art methodology was being questioned by Indian artists at the dawn of Independence. Over the fifty-year period of their creativity, these two artists devised a language of sculpture that would break away from an imitative follow-up of western art to a more expressive and creative Indian alternative. "

The exhibition is on at the Lalit Kala Akademi, Delhi, from April 1-13

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