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An ongoing exhibition celebrates the visual vocabulary of Indian sculptors

The fifth edition of iSculpt, currently on view in the Capital, celebrates the works of Indian sculptors like Satish Gujral, Amar Nath Sehgal and Himmat Shah

Himmat Shah, 'Untitled', bronze
Himmat Shah, 'Untitled', bronze

Given our dependency on gadgets these days, you might be forgiven for harbouring the misconception that the ‘i’ in iSculpt has something to do a particular tech company. However, this couldn’t be farther than the truth. The fifth edition of iSculpt, being held at the India International Centre, New Delhi till 21 December, has nothing to do with cold technology but the wonders of the human mind. This biennial exhibition, organised by the Delhi Art Society, celebrates the sculptural traditions of India. The 2023 edition celebrates the centenary year of the late Keshav Malik, an Indian poet, art scholar, critic, and curator. 

Delhi Art Society was co-founded by Malik and Neeraj Gupta, a leading sculptor who works in stone, bronze, and brass. The idea was to make Delhi the hub of public art. Gupta’s work, Portrait of Keshav Malik, which is on display at the exhibition, is a homage to the legacy of his co-founder, who worked with national dailies and was the literary editor of Thought, a weekly Indian journal of the arts. He also worked with the National Gallery of Modern Art as an advisor and was the personal assistant to India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, in the late 1940s. 

This edition, curated by Uma Nair, gives a glimpse into how the sculptural form has continued to evolve. The show features works by 24 artists in mediums such as terracotta, wood, stone, and metal. Installed in Gandhi King Plaza, the poolside-garden area of the India International Centre, the sculptures, when seen in natural light, allow for a meditative experience—the shadow and light further enhancing the overall appeal of the artworks.  

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Tarun Khanna, founder of New Delhi-based art advisory 108 Art Projects, has lent his support to the exhibition by bringing out the accompanying catalogue. The publication doesn’t just give information on the artists but delves into the mind of Malik. “The sculptural arts are likely to thrive when practiced by people with enthusiasm in the problems of their art, and comparatively small interest in its contents… art is successful when it is in touch with the tender-most if invisible points in life—the unconscious as well as the semi-conscious,” the catalogue mentions a quote by Malik.

Works by some of the leading modernists and contemporary artists, included names such as Satish Gujral, Amar Nath Sehgal, Himmat Shah, Satish Gupta, Sonia Sareen, and several others, offer an entry point into understanding the tenacity of sculptors who found their respective metier in this genre. N. S. Rana’s Solace, with the artist’s trademark faceless and haunting Rajasthani women, shows viewers how the artist got the folds of the garments right while Muzaffar Ali’s sculpture, depicting a pair of horses, highlights the artist’s abiding love for the animal. Be it Sehgal’s 1983 creation of the carefully hollowed-out form to create an impression of the elephant god Ganesha in bronze or Ankon Mitra’s sculptural installation, using hand-folded and powder-coated aluminium modular sheets in the shape of butterflies, or even Arun Pandit’s dramatic sculpture, Musician, all of the works on display at the exhibition are a celebration to the genesis of this timeless artistic tradition. 

Abhilasha Ojha is an independent art and culture writer.

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