The Other Space

The Other Space
signed, dated, inscribed and titled 'R Broota / '92 / RAMESHWAR BROOTA / TRIVENI KALA SANGAM / 205 TANSEN MARG, N. DEL / 'THE OTHER SPACE'' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
69 7/8 x 100 1/8 in. (177.5 x 254.3 cm.)
Painted in 1992
Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi
The Collection of Glenbarra Art Museum, Himeji
Christie's, New York, 19 September 2002, lot 344
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Contemporary Indian Art: Glenbarra Art Museum Collection, Himeji, 1993, p. 92 (illustrated)
R. Karode, Rameshwar Broota: Interrogating the Male Body, New Delhi, 2015, p. 111
New Delhi, Vadehra Art Gallery, Husain ki Sarai Collection of Works, November 1992

Lot Essay

Rameshwar Broota’s paintings bear the physical scars of his innovative and labor-intensive creative process, which involved developing "a method in which he applied many thin coats of paint beginning with silver and including raw sienna, burnt umber, shades of bluish black as well as pure black, and incorporating linseed oil to preserve the suppleness of the surface for the scraping phase.” (S. Bean, ‘Midnight’s Children: The Second Generation’ Midnight to the Boom, Painting in India After Independence, New York, 2013, p. 138) Once the layers are ready, the artist uses a razor to scrape and work the surface with varying pressure to create fine textures and exquisitely etched details. Through this process, Broota blurs the definitions of painting and becomes part sculptor, part archaeologist, exhuming his forms from the medium itself.

Following his overtly figurative and political works of the previous decades, in the 1990s Broota began working on a series of paintings with intricately textured surfaces that featured free-floating architectural and organic forms. This contrasted with the central male figure which had hitherto been the main subject of Broota’s oeuvre. The Other Space, painted in 1992 is part of the artist’s Metamorphosis series of large monochromatic abstracted canvases depicting the primordial potency of the natural world. Roobina Karode discusses these works in a monograph accompanying the recent major retrospective of the artist's work that she curated at the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art in 2015. She notes, “Metamorphosis introduces a shock element as the artist struggles to refine his departure from the dominant position of the male as ‘heroic and virile.’ The ravaging forces of time reinforce the desire for the impossible – a life of permanence. Broota is preoccupied with the disappearance of the material body, its disintegration, leaving behind an exposed web of nerves and veins held on their fragile edge.” (R. Karode, Visions of Interiority: Interrogating the Male Body, exhibition catalogue, New Delhi, 2015)

This meticulously rendered painting combines brute masculine power with quiet sensitive femininity. Just as Broota’s process uses a violent technique to achieve uniquely textured, delicate surfaces, his forms create similar paradoxes. Here, a powerful, inverted banyan tree bursts from the earth to reveal delicate leaves hanging in the wind above its aerial roots. However, The Other Space marks an aesthetic departure from the Man Series as the male figure is no longer explicit, certainly not in any overtly extrinsic terms. Conspicuously absent in the composition, the male form is referred to on a deeper level by the artist in his anthropomorphizing of natural forms. The protruding trunk echoes Broota’s familiar phallic forms from previous works. The Other Space with its mesmerizing composition reveals Broota as one of the most cerebral painters of his generation, retreating from direct representation and looking deep within himself in search of universal truths.

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