Tuesday, August 1, 2000
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Virtuosity or reality? 

Suneet Chopra  
The exhibition of the works of Rameshwar Singh, sponsored by Dhoomimals, at the Shridharani Art Gallery, reflects a certain trend we see developing in Rajasthan and certain other regions in the country, where the past and present coexist, as there is little progress in productive activity. The main thrust is on tourism, which breeds its own market for the nostalgic and ethnic.

This has given birth to an `ethnic' art dominated by primary colours, images and texts from the past, with quaint watches, grandfather clocks, jalopies, phonographs, bioscopes and composite images from ritual art, jostling together in a timeless, changing house. If the art of the minimalist and conceptualist throws out the baggage of the past to highlight the essential direction of the movement forward, Rameshwar allows it to stick to the works and it functions as a critique of a present, not moving forward fast enough.

In this critique, the horse and mare, man and woman are equally pawns in the game of chaupar or chess played by celestials. Ideally, this should serve to awaken us to how the fruits of progress are being hijacked by those who make use of the gross inequalities of society to feather their nests. However, the overdose of nostalgia, decorativeness and imagery with which he invests his canvases obscures the reality. The artist will have to find a via media between expressing his virtuosity and the reality he wishes to communicate.

For this, Rameshwar Singh has a sound background. His home town, Deogarh, is known for its own school of art and has a sound grounding in the evolution of our pre-colonial artistic expression. Also, he has the rare capacity to blend different elements and create harmonies with their own momentum. This virtuosity should now be directed towards contemporary concerns.

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