and Drawings (1981-1985),
introduced by William Feaver
and essay by Sheena Wagstaff,
Kettle's Yard Gallery,
University of Cambridge(32 pages)
on his lawn in a glade of saplings, beside the track where a miniature
railway ran last summer during Liverpool's International Garden Festival,
Sitting Bufl sniffs the air. This Nandi - Shiva's Nandi - resting among
man-made hills is Dhruva Mistry's largest sculpture so far. Plump and
bold, modelled in concrete and painted a cheery red, he keeps watch over
a dismantled site.
made three bulls for Liverpool in 1983-4. The smallest, a daisy-patterned
mascot maquette was carved in chalk. The next was a companionable red
bull in concrete, half lifesize, for the 7th Peter Moores Exhibition.
Dwarfing these the huge Sitting Bu# is beyond the pale, in Henry Moore
terms, because of the outlandish colour. Peach red against the grass,
more startling than reassuring, this one is the brightest of the species.
of Ian Hamilton Finlay's battle-cries echoes here: 'Fewer Sculptures!
More Statues!' Sculpture is sculpture, an end in itself. Statues stand
for values and beliefs. Statues signify. Originally, before the paint
wore off and Lord Elgin removed his shipload of fragments for the aesthetically
aware and the classically educated to savour in the British Museum, the
Parthenon pediments outlined the birth of Athena and the contest between
Athena and Poseidon in full colour. It's arguable that as long as the
paint lasted Athens thrived and Athena remained a living legend.
is not so, for while there is plenty of Tantric Internationalism in India,
pedestrian portrait statuary, elaborate metalwork and academic craftsmanship,
Mistry's alertness and sureness of touch set him apart. He uses classical
Indian sculpture; he has skills more common in India than in the West
but he also has an opportunism worthy of Picasso. What he says about Werner
Herzog and his worldwide yet Germanic vision applies to himself as well:
'That fellow can digest anything'.
of the University of Baroda could be the University of North Staffs on
a hot day. The Faculty of Sculpture houses the sort of student exercises
seen everywhere, from Shanghai to San Francisco. The Baroda Museum, founded
in the 1900's by an enlightened Maharaja, contains, besides a fine collection
of Indian painting and sculpture, a selection of Western works of art
ranging from School of Titian to 'Constable'and Glyn Philpot and W.P.
Frith's The Race for Wealth, a picture-story of mid-Victorian worldly
corruption in four episodes.
is a shop in Baroda, the Mandavi bazaar, where enamelled eyes can be bought.
They come in many sizes, from little more than pink-rimmed black spots
to enormous stares. Pressed into the faces of clay figures they command
instant attention. The same eyes give expression to Dhruva Mistry's Guardians,
making them engage the onlooker, as statues should.These images belong
to a world of transformations where the winged become the hoofed and dub
beasts assume fabulous powers. They come not just from mythology (and
the sculpture galleries of the British Museum) but from the streets and
fields of India where cows walk free and man has no unique or privileged
status beyond being recognised as one of the cleverest and most destructive
species. Animals that look you in the eye, that display themselves as
equals are rare these days in the art of the industrialised and sentimentalised
is why Nandi on Merseyside and Little Bird, sighted in the gardens of
Newnham, are more than mythological or supernatural. They have nothing
in common with the titchy naturalism of Britains Ltd farmyard animals,
for their characteristics are true to life. Note the spread of the claws,
the set of the shoulders, the differences between muzzles and the variety
of hindquarters. Dhruva Mistry's brilliance lies in his matter of fact
treatment of extraordinary attributes. In his hands sculpture functions
once again as the art of the actual.