Creative chronicles of a nomad

by Navneet Mendiratta
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‘Hammer on the Square’, the retrospective on Himmat Shah featuring over 300 works recently concluded in the Capital. Hosted by Kiran Nadar Museum of Art (KNMA) and curated by Roobina Karode, the director of KNMA, the show was a fitting celebration of the works of the 83-year-old artist, who has been working with bronze and terracotta for 60 years and experimenting with several other media without any limitations or self imposed restrictions.
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And on one special evening before the six month long she concluded, Karode and Shah took the visitors on a walkthrough of a selection spanning six decades, starting from his burnt paper paintings, reliefs of his monumental murals in brick, cement and concrete (made in 1967 at St Xavier’s School, Ahmedabad), his silver paintings, and most recent bronze heads. At least 215 of the works on display were a part of the KNMA’s permanent collection. The rest were loaned from various public and private collections.
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During the walk, Karode shared her association with Shah, having studied his work and style for long. She decoded his vocabulary and articulated the thought process of the artist, who is largely reticent. “Be it sculptures or drawings, Himmat’s body of work reflects an individualistic as well as modernistic vision which hasn’t been fully comprehended. This is why we decided to have this retrospective,” said Karode, adding, “the constraint of space and the affordability of material often had direct bearing on his choice of materials and medium. But that did not stop him from experimenting and evolving a vocabulary of expressive textures from wastage and discarded material.”
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At the same time, the retrospective also made available to public showing of his much earlier works and paintings. “Himmat has always been more popular for his sculptures and terracotta work. By making the drawings the anchor of the show (each work is connected to the other by a drawing), we wanted to highlight his lesser-known medium and extraordinary body of work,” Karode shared.

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