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Poetic encounters with Himmat Shah

  • 200 of Himmat Shah’s works, including burnt paper collages, small sculptures, and bronze heads, are being showcased at the Bihar Museum
  • Of these, a few surviving silver paintings are being shown for the first time since 1973

Himmat Shah’s ‘Untitled’ on terracotta. Photo courtesy: The Artist
Himmat Shah’s ‘Untitled’ on terracotta. Photo courtesy: The Artist

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At the Bihar Museum in Patna, Himmat Shah’s works seem to be in dialogue with one another, thereby creating a new narrative for the viewer. The few surviving silver paintings—being shown for the first time since 1973—have been juxtaposed with the burnt paper collages he exhibited during the famous Group 1890 exhibition at the Lalit Kala Akademi in 1964. A little ahead, his signature bronze and terracotta heads seem to be engaged in an intense conversation.

Two hundred such works form part of the exhibition, Under The Vastness Of The Sky, presented by the Bihar Museum in collaboration with the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art (KNMA). This is the third iteration of Shah’s retrospective, with earlier ones—Hammer On The Square and The Euphoria Of Being—having taken place at the KNMA, Delhi, and the Jawahar Kala Kendra, Jaipur, in 2016 and 2018, respectively.

The title of each exhibition reflects the various facets of the artist’s life being showcased. “Under The Vastness Of The Sky, for instance, takes into account Himmat’s fearlessness, his quest for artistic freedom and that phase of his life when he ran away from home, lived amidst the ruins, slept under the stars and revelled in a life of solitude,” says Roobina Karode, curator of the exhibition. Also interesting is a series of small sculptures made with casts of found objects—funnels, vessels, cylinders, and more. A lot of his work is about making you see things that you might normally miss out on. “There is a terracotta bowl with an insect inside which you won’t notice unless you peep in. So, there is a play of what you can see up close and from a distance,” she says. “Also, his practice brings home that fact that creativity can thrive even when you have nothing.”

Under The Vastness Of The Sky is on view at the Bihar Museum, Patna, till 2 June.

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