• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 1975

    South Asian Modern + Contemporary Art

    20 March 2008, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 17


    Traces of Man - I

    Price Realised  


    Traces of Man - I
    signed 'R. Broota, Rameshwar Broota, Traces of Man I, Oil on canvas (Scraped with Blade)' (on the reverse)
    oil on canvas, scraped with blade
    70 x 80 in. (177.8 x 203.2 cm.)
    Executed in 1995

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    Since the 1980's Rameshwar Broota's method has been the opposite of the conventional technique of using the canvas to build forms, instead he adopted the reverse procedure whereby the form could be encouraged to reveal itself or be released from its confined depths. 'This process, unique to Broota, involves the over-painting of the canvas with layers of paint, notably silver, deep ochres and modified tones of black.' (Gayatri Sinha, Rameshwar Broota, Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi, 2001, p. 29.) The process is slow and deliberate; not based on the extraction of a predetermined idea but the exploration of his craft and its depths.

    From the 1990's structure began to appear in Broota's work and man slowly receded. Broota's subject matter had now shifted from proto-human figures and defined spaces giving way to pure form still achieved by the insistent scraping and nicking of a blade.

    Having moved away from the figure, Broota began a body of works which focused on architectural elements and tools. The artist has emphasized that these works are not abstract, either in concept or in execution. Man may not be physically present, but his presence is inferred through the presence of man-made objects. This work shows the presence of man in prehistoric times leaving behind his trail in symbolic script and giving the impression that it has been etched on rock, while man has vanished. This is further emphasized by the title Traces of Man I and was the first work of this series.

    The sheer size and scale of these works is important to note. The large canvases are in direct contrast to Broota's blade technique, which is extremely detailed and labor intensive. This is a testament to Broota's patience and "a testament of his co-operation, indeed proof of subordination of himself before the creative power that is working through him."

    (Keshav Malik, Rameshwar Broota - The Winding Spiral, Vadehra Art Gallery, Vadehra Art Gallery, 1998.)


    Christie's, 16 October 1995, Indian Contemporary Paintings, London, lot 71