The Wares of Glass  

Delhi’s Threshold Gallery marks its 25th anniversary with a showcase of more than 30 works of self-representation by multi-generational artists 
V Ramesh, Self Portrait in the Studio with a Single Malt
V Ramesh, Self Portrait in the Studio with a Single Malt

In an art bazar teeming with art ingenues, poseurs, bandwagoneers, shows titled Fast and Furious/Bold and Beautiful/New Frontiers that brassily proclaim and showcase their inanity, it’s a rare show that packs cerebration, aesthetic appeal and intellectual vigour. ‘Reflecting the Self’ presented by Gallery Threshold at Bikaner House to commemorate its 25th anniversary, is that show.

Gallerist Tunty Chauhan and curator Deeksha Nath bring together more than 30 artists whose luminous works leave the viewer alternatively pensive, introspective and yes, in a mood for self reflection. 

KG Subramanyan, Krishen Khanna, Ghulam Mohammed Sheikh, Rameshwar Broota, V Ramesh, Shobha Broota, Gargi Raina, Atul and Anju Dodiya, Sudhir Patwardhan, Anupam Sud, Rajendra Tiku, Manisha Gera and Anindita Bhattacharya among others, excavate mind and memory to delineate haunting images of inner landscapes.

Allegory, illusion, dreams are tellingly evoked to reveal hidden recesses of the heart. Gargi Raina’s work transcends mere self portraiture— it’s a poignant, intense literary document, an archive that evokes 15th century poet Annamachari, Mir Taqi Mir, Nasreen Mohamedi, and Gargi’s own transition from youth to autumnal silver. 

Patwardhan documents youthful indecision and impending mortality. Anupam Sud’s is a searing testament to human frailty that evokes Bulleh Shah’s lines. “Buddha Hoya Sheikh Farid, te kampan lagi kaya”. Anju Dodiya’s trapped, masked, constricted women are images of an inner self claustrophobed in dystopian Covid times. Ghulam Sheikh’s portrait series is a veritable MRI image of the multiverses the mind traverses in a lifetime while Tiku’s watercolours are dreams awash in colours of memory; his sculptures are metaphors of his inner being. 

Shanthi Swaroopini, Beneath calm water
Shanthi Swaroopini, Beneath calm water

The delights are multiple—Broota’s signature  Maplethorpe-ian self image; Priya Ravsh Mehra’s is a distilled take on the organic interconnectedness of thread/pulp/ matter and us; Anindita’s document questions our anthropocentric arrogance and posits whether those brutal fractures she’s framed are images of the beast within us. Extending that conceit, Dilip Ranade highlights the complex, ambiguous, peculiar mirroring between our human and animal natures.

The redoubtable Amit Ambalal contemplates mortality with his characteristic droll wit even as Gera, Paramjit Singh, Rajendra Dhawan investigate the sere terrain within; the dark night of the soul through images of needle-pierced hearts, dark ravaged treescapes, black depths of the Hades through which no light escapes.

Shobha Broota is a delicate Lady Dorian Gray in that endearing self portrait of her as feckless wide-eyed young woman; nonagenarian Khanna seems to portray his own body in recoil.

There’s joy too. One delights in the sheer effulgence, consummate artistry of maestro V Ramesh’s Portrait of Man with Single Malt. Awash in burnt sienna, this masterful double image self portrait is both self tribute and testament to a master in his prime.

This show is a paean to the fragility of the human condition. One that Raina evokes through the words of Mir, the voice of her octogenarian mother:

Le saans bhi ahista ki nazuk hai bahut kaam/Afaq ki is kargah- e-shishagari ka Breathe softly as with fragility here all is fraught/In this  workshop of the world where wares of glass are wrought.

Sunil Mehra is a veteran journalist, actor and dastango. 

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