introduced by Pramod Ray,
Sakshi Gallery, Mumbai(24 pages)
We are living at the end of the linear time, the time of succession: history, progress, modernity. In art the most virulent form of the crises of modernity has been the criticism of the object; begun by Dada, it is now ending in the destruction(or self-destruction) of the artistic thing, painting or sculpture, in the celebration of the act, the ceremony, the happening, the gesture.
Octavio Paz, Convergences, 1990
It was curiosity, desire and a British Council Scholarship that took Dhruva Mistry to Britain in 1981. Now, his return to Vadodara in 1997, is a measure of elegance of equation, simplicity and necessity of his object. Back home, after thirteen years of self-employment, to probe validity of language, visual precision and universal beauty of belief. The chair as a presupposition of human presence and a formal object has allured Mistry from as early as 1977 when he made Man on a Chair. In 1981, he made life-size Sitting Man, and later in 1987, two plaster studies with opposite characteristics evolved for a sequence of relief sculptures called Maya Medallion: The Involuntary Creation. Mistry's consistency of pursuit for visual attunement, evolution and processes span Cycladic figuration to Extreme 3D constructs. The basis of The Object I, is an architectonic form peopled with constellations of signs, and The Object II, a figurative vision of erotic alchemy of the subject and object. Diagram of an Object, 1989-90 and The Object, 1995-97 reflect Mistry's monumental intentions as both pieces reveal progression of scale, quality of form and use of materials.
ALoC: The Object I and II 1997-2000, included in the 10th Triennale-India 2001, New Delhi, are stainless steel constructs, emerging from Mistry's tremors of experience over the terrain of time. They appear concrete, closed, hollowed, open, skeletal, linear, crystalline, transparent, like pure notations in space. Drawing, the fine art of omission, allows Mistry to consecrate air, fire, water and earth in the object of desire. Steel wires, rods and sheet metal, when put together, reveal a crisp sculptural configuration. ALoC, refers to the Actual Line of Control and a million mutinies of our time. The differences of mind, matter, region, religion, ethics, politics and ethnic drives and divides warrant constant attention. A-loka, in Sanskrit, denotes, the end of the world or the immaterial. The title indicates a measured folly of sound and meaning in English and Sanskrit. Mistry's numerous propositions in given space and time define the premise of possibilities. They remain formal and formidably individual. Mistry challenges slow reactions and muddled thinking by playing with simple forms to capture dominant tones. A self-sufficient whole requires that the inert qualities of the material must breathe with intelligible signs of life. The play of imagination and ideas, bilingualism, wit and skill offer clear symbols of the culture. Learning through one language allows him to be tested for the knowledge through another; the visual one.
Mistry, tends to look into the Object as in itself it really is. It seeks to be a language without ceasing to be a presence. It is an object of exploration through moments and movements like an araby of ideas. Like a favourite piece of writing, the visual qualities of the object can be read as sculptural allusions. His object in space defines spatial relationship of the form, which takes us back to the body, to the image of the body as pilgrimage. Mistry's synthesis of forms in circumambient space are elemental to what he tends to see amidst a certain order of ideas. It is impossible to conceive of meaning without order, which is made tangible through the most effective and attractive combinations. Here, the artistic thing is the object as a construct, phenomena of vision and perception. Where ironies of the universe manifest in distending the knowable laws of the physical world. The possible is real when density, symmetry, planes, privacy and pun propose an alternative world. The world is exactly as it appears. A mystical virtue is born with his level and the plum, right angles and the uprights, as if to bear weight of an unspoken virtue. Sculpture communicates the spatial relationship through the architecture of the form which governs the becoming as well as it's being. In the process of perceiving and looking into the Object an idea of reality is constantly confounded. With the air of a castle, palace, throne or a folly, the shimmering structures with colossal entrances, narrow escapes and skeletal buttresses lead to a theorem of desire. A towering stronghold of the fortress of life leaves one outside, feeling alone. Creative realisation, intensity of thought and movement, swing open the huge gates. Its own air fill the inner light of spaces. An invisible tease awaits an imaginary arrival from the silver pulpit. The consummation of an idea is not in analysis but in synthesis. The vision of the artist is the subject of the object. The man and the moment merge with the critical power to make an intellectual situation for the best ideas to prevail.
Baroda- New Delhi-
Baroda and Bombay- London- Mumbai to Vadodara:
At the end of an MA at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Baroda, Dhruva Mistry and Ravinder Reddy, were planning solo exhibitions of their work in New Delhi and Bombay. In spring 1981, Mistry had gone to New Delhi for the British Council Scholarship, and met Mr and Mrs Alkazi at the Art Heritage to explore the possibility of showing their work. By December 1981, two exhibitions were organised by the Art Heritage. Soon, Mistry was to leave for the Royal College of Art in London, just a few months before his show. Enthused by the exhibitions, the Alkazis, toured the show to Bombay and the work was exhibited at the Jehangir Art Gallery in February 1982. Both artists were noticed to be practising many styles. Mistry tracks diverse routes to the imaginary summit of ideas and proceeds from the visual plains of clarity. His curiosity is free from the confines of style, hence, the work simmers with diverse ideas and forms. The physicality of form in space remain so real as well as ambiguous that it calls for special regard and close attention.
Man with Dog and Walking Man, Mistry's life size figures from 1980-81, were included in the 5th Triennale-India, in New Delhi, just before being shown at Jehangir Art Gallery in 1982. In the image of man, the work was free standing, sky-clad, naked, solitary and life size, as the proposition was the measure as well the figure of speech. The onlooker's encounter with the work would signify the moment of non-action. The statue seemed to have had left its pedestal for the theatre of the gallery as if to examine and explore the space for people. Mistry's intervention had recreated a piece of experience with the human body as a semantic universe; a language. The work was a prelude to the change of direction in Contemporary Indian Sculpture and the result was an extraordinary installation of a secret sign exchanged between meaning and meaninglessness.
Contemporary Indian Art at the Royal Academy in London during the Festival of India in Britain in 1982, was a major show. Mistry's figures, included from the 5th Triennale, were noticed for his absolute control of the materials. Mistry had begun building a name for himself, soon after the Royal College of Art. His work was carving a niche through new ideas focussed upon the image of Men, Women, Little Birds, Creatures, Sitting Bulls, Reguarding Guardians, Maya Medallions, The Objects, Hanuman: a Spatial Metaphor, Studies for River, Tree Spirits, Spatial Diagrams, Diagrams of an Object and Looking Around. Mistry distinguishes himself by being ready to study, learn and understand to comprehend and explore the complex in order to find the simple. The rich imagery and narrative content of Indian art and the highly developed skill of a dedicated sculptor working in a culture not his own, together with a great independence of mind, have contributed to Mistry's success in Britain. Indian imagery, visual play, intellectual engagement with his work calls on perception and understanding of form. Mistry plays on this and keeps us guessing by leading us on in three dimensions, only to confound our expectations at a crucial point1.
The classical India had preferred oral to written communications; the things from the books were not thought to be so advantageous as things from the living and abiding voice. Art is a living thing, thoughts about things and an abiding voice for the eyes. Until the invention of printing, writing represented the secret and sacred knowledge of a large number of bureaucratic castes. That is why Plato mistrusted the written word and preferred the spoken one.2 Indian westoxicated elite and their feudalism have laid little stress on individual liberty, rule of law, meritocracy and true modernity has been misrecognised.3 The middle class elite or artists, need not feel visually and intellectually challenged by the art of the actual. The real basis of democracy is conversation, the spoken word. Sculpture is one-to-one action with one's materials which invites one to bring some consciousness to how it was arrived at as a shaped matter. Speculating about a pseudo concept is more boring than contemplating a still life. It goes from the negation of meaning through the object, to the negation of the object through meaning.4 Rising from the toil of the living pyramid of Indian culture, Mistry manages to wander through the tunnels of time and channels of communication towards the chamber of presence. The past, present and future become one. To comprehend contradictions and idiosyncrasies of time is to begin to exist to be real.
Pramod Ray, 2001