Born in 1941, the reputed artist Rameshwar Broota has consistently reflected on the social situation in his
work, intermeshed with his internal space. His earliest works were of the laborers in their daily grind,
emaciated and despondent. These desolate studies were replaced in the 1970s by satirical works of overfed
gorillas, albeit politicians, and the well-heeled placed in interiors and gratifying their voracious appetites. By
the 1980’s, Broota had begun to make humans, naked and stark, frontally confronting the viewer. This also
led later to close-ups of the human body, the ear or the hand, minutely studied, and represented as a
microcosm of the universe. The artist’s incessant experimentations with technique have led him to make
distinctive works, wherein the surface is pared away with a thin blade, texturizing and nuancing his
paintings. He has reverted to making them in shades of black and white with infinite variations and textures
by this painstaking method. The new century had the adroit painter turn towards dramatic binaries where
the fleshy mass of the body would be wedged with parts of hard mass made of steel or iron. The soft and hard
juxtapositions were placed at unusual angles and studied by a photographer’s eye, as it were. A continuous
thread in his work has been an involvement with photography, albeit of selected subjects framed in an
unusual manner. His perspectives have often encased the human body and extended it to man-made
structures, tubular or circular wherein the seamless quality of contemporary existence comes into play. The
computer-generated works in recent years have provided an ingenious manipulation of forms to bring about a
play of sensuality and reality. Broota’s experimental forays have co-existed with his teaching of generations of
students and his art classes are well known for their professionalism. In his life as in his work, he maintains a
disciplined and consistent approach which remains unrivalled.
From the beginning of his career, the human condition has been one of his concerns.
“I am a man, perhaps I have more understanding about the nature of man", he said.
When he painted the Gorilla series or even the Man series, it was the corruption, the
constant yearning for worldly things, for power and even suffering through the ages,
or man as a fighter, as a bread-earner that he was involved with. He used to paint the
working man in his Labourer series — very hungry, very thin, lean and bony people.
When Broota came out of college, he did not know what to do, he was always
confused and no help came from outside. He knows that he had to work hard, find a
job and struggle with society, with the people or even within oneself.
Broota’s art thrives on the plenitude of decline, on the restless and uneasy souls who are shackled yet
unvanquished as they seek new ideals, new myths, new realities, new absurdities, attempting valiantly in the
process to draw sustenance out of abstracted nothingness. The plight of the anonymous man in search of
immortality amidst the forces of decadence, swamping him, squeezing out of him his last breath is the artist’s
focus of life-long research and interest. Rameshwar Broota has been somewhat of an institution at Triveni
Kala Sangam where he started teaching decades back. Over the years, it became his home and studio. In the
early days, when portraiture was his oeuvre, the ordinary labour-class grabbed his attention as he wanted the
streets of the city. On his canvas there appeared bony emaciated figures, weary and burdened as they
struggled lifting loads of bricks and cement to construction sites. It was early sixties and Delhi was the
fledging capital in the throes of turning into a metropolis. From the subject of the impoverished labourers,
Broota went on to paint his Gorilla series, a satirical comment on Babudom and their corrupt ways. The
apes gargantuanly proportioned sat a formal conclaves, deeply involved it seemed with matters of grave
seriousness as they pored over their files. After a decade, quite accidentally as he was scraping the surface of a
painting that had been rejected, he discovered an exciting new possibility. It was now that he slowly
mastered through trial and error, his present methodology. While homo sapiens still preoccupy his thoughts,
they are abstracted extensions of the universal contemporary man who remains somewhere primitive.
Working with industrial blades that meticulously excavates through the layers till it arrives at the required
texture is demanding and time-consuming. Often he can complete only two large canvases in a year but the
end result is a definitive frame … monumental and sensuous despite its almost architectural structure.
Broota graduated from New Delhi College of Art and Later became a faculty
member there. Since 1967, he has been heading Triveni Kala Sangam in New
Delhi. Broota’s recent solo shows were held in Dubai, in 2011; New Delhi, in
2007, 2011 and 2009; Mumbai, in 2008; the National Gallery of Modern Art,
Mumbai and Kolkata, in 2004-05. Some of the group shows that Broota’s works
have been a part of include ‘Ideas of the Sublime’ at Lalit Kala Akademi, New
Delhi, in 2013; ‘Progressive to Altemodern’ London, in 2009; ‘Still Moving
Image’ at the Devi Art Foundation, New Delhi, in 2008; ‘Contemporary Art of
India’, at the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, 1999; and those at the Taka Oka
Municipal Museum of Art and Merguro Museum of Art, Japan, in 1988. In 1982,
Broota’s works were exhibited at the Museum of Art and Merguro Museum of
Art, Japan, in 1988. In 1982, Broota’s works were exhibited at the Museum of
Modern Art in Oxford, the Hirschorn Museum in Washington DC, and the
Damstadt Museum in Germany. The Artist lives and works in New Delhi.
Excerpts from the books Journeys: Four Generations of Indian Artists in their Own Words, Volume 2, by
Yashodara Dalmia, published by Oxford University Press, 2011, pg. 79-78; Faces of Indian Art Through
the Lens of Nemai Ghosh, by Ina Puri, published by Art Alive Gallery, 2007, pg. 268-272