Traces of Man - The Unknown-Soldier - I

Traces of Man - The Unknown-Soldier - I
signed, titled and dated '-R. Broota -RAMESHWAR BROOTA -TRACES OF MAN - THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER - I -1999' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
94½ x 47¼ in. (240 x 120 cm.)
Painted in 1999
Gallery Espace, New Delhi
Private Indian Collection
Saffronart, 17 March 2011, lot 14
Rameshwar Broota: Recent Paintings, exhibition catalogue, New Delhi, 2001, p. 26 (illustrated)

Lot Essay

"Broota's central subject is man, through whose tensions and aspirations, lusts and endeavours, the greater issues of life are mediated. God is indifferent or distant, the human 'other' is absent; the solitary man becomes the site for conflict and resolution." (G. Sinha, "Edge of the Precipice: The Art of Rameshwar Broota", Rameshwar Broota: Recent Paintings, exhibition catalogue, New Delhi, 2001, p. 23)

After his overtly figurative and political works of the previous decades, in the 1990s Rameshwar Broota began working on a series of large, monochromatic, semi-abstract canvases with intricately textured surfaces that featured free-floating architectural forms and half-concealed figures. These paintings are not abstract, even though the human figure is not their main focus or concern. Although Broota's 'man' may be absent or only partially visible in these existential canvases, he is represented through the remnants of his constructions. Through these half-images, Broota explores the shadowy anonymity that society imposes on the contemporary individual, and the insidious violence of this phenomenon.

The artist's labor-intensive creative process, in which he practically exhumes his images from multiple layers of paint using a minute razor blade, corresponds to the meta-narratives these paintings touch upon. "The chromatic nuances resulting from the scratching, in spite of their austerity, can be mesmerizing. Broota's magical handling of myriad textures creates a brilliant impact. Broota achieves this through the variety of ways he wields the razor, sometimes to gouge out paint, at other times to employ linear strokes or fine cross-hatchings. The minute detail is a fascinating visual experience." (E. Datta, "The Archaeology of Experience", Rameshwar Broota, exhibition catalogue, New Delhi, 2004-05, p. 21)

Titled The Unknown Soldier, this monumental painting underscores the loss of independence and distinctiveness Broota sees in contemporary life. Here, rather than the soldier, we see bits and pieces of his uniform, buttons and medals, barely distinguishable from the patterned and textured background. It is these pieces of metal that define his presence and character, while all traces of the individual wearing them disappear in the surroundings.

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