The sublime and moving earth-installations and sculptures of Baroda-based sculptor Trupti Patel --- Homeland – on display at Gallery Alternatives until mid-February, mark a moving aesthetic beginning to a new year in need of meditativeness and a deep re-connection to a humanistic value system. Trupti’s noteworthy body of work, evolved over the past 7 years and assembled specifically for this exhibit, portrays the poignancy and poetry of an artist’s true roots. Further, the inherent meanings of Indian ‘iconic’ symbolism are powerfully evoked here, by employing ‘mitti’ culled from eight different Indian states (that cut across the Tropic of Cancer).
Androgynous, all-seeing, beautiful masks appear timelessly afloat, gazing skywards, upon deep beds of earth. Mysterious, smiling, meditating heads seem merged with Trupti’s formations of this very earth. Their serene, semi-classical gazes echo both the Devi -Visarjan of goddess-immersion, as well as the piercing presence of Egyptian, Phoenician and Greco-Roman mummy-portraits. Mahamaya-Devi comes down to us from the river ; she is returned by us to the river’s all-encompassing silt – continuing to regenerate our lives in an eternal cycle. We humans are no different -- the Ganga is constanty replenished with our own mortal ashes, to perennially nourish and regenerate our rivers and our earth into infininity. “Dust we are, and to dust we return” --- the fact that every grain of dust speaks eloquently, in an immortal artistic language, is exemplified by Trupti’s haunting forms, in her series titled Associations of the Homeland.
As a student artist in the 1970s and later, Trupti was alarmed to discover that, despite India having such a living artistic tradition of Terracotta, simply-fired clay was not then accepted by the ‘Contemporary Art-Gallery establishment.’ This lacuna only strengthened Trupti’s deep feeling for clay -- with its powerful regenerative powers and its holistic nature. Her sculptures present what may be described as ‘a meditative perusal of natural clay’ --- be it in terracotta, ‘thrown’ shapes, or sculptural figures --- in order to realise the deeper socio-psychological relationship of the self with the inherent culture of all our earth-connected rituals. Trupti’s sculptural installations exert a profoundly mystical vision, that includes the symbolic meanings of our rituals.
Her exploration of clay also includes the strong reality of the all-consuming fire.
In a series titled 23.5 degrees North, Trupti has powerfully employed the actual textures, colours and tones of Indian ‘mitti’. As this piece is viewed at ground-level in the Gallery, one observes India’s ‘mitti’ from west to east (left to right) – from Gujarat to Mizoram. In the centre of these eight subtle, beautifully-aesthetic striations, that appear to be vibrating in different colours, stands an omnipresent, dark and classical female head. This contemporary icon is masterfully sculpted from a ‘composite body’ of oxides and minerals, including cobalt and manganese, fired at the highest stoneware temperature. Over 2 kgs of cobalt have been used in such a work, lending such sculptures formidable historicity, depth, weight, and permanence.
It is fascinating to observe the tonal variations in these eight panels of mitti --- in a mesmerically natural earth-palette, varying from red, orange, brown, slate and grey to yellow. The urban ‘sophisticated’ pigments and painterly paraphernalia of artists actually originates from such earth-tones. Trupti has marvellously employed ‘the palette of the earth’, in order to create a mesmeric vision of life’s eternal cycle. In an exclusive interview, from Baroda, the sculptor told me: “My art is entirely intuitive --- not measured. It emerges entirely from within, from the mind --- and it is not ‘corrected’ after it emerges. I venture completely into the unknown with every new work, and I am glad that I have no ‘fixed measures’. “
In Trupti’s sublime Ceramic, Oxide and Clay sculpture of 2005- 2012, evocatively titled ‘Keep This Water In Your Home -- Instructed By Mother,’ a sculpted evocation employs actual Ganga-water, sealed in a copper urn. Here, she has inventively contemporised and made secular the myth of Shiva and Parvati. A neutral male head carries a reclining woman upon it; she is balancing a copper urn of Ganga-Jal upon her shoulders, in repose. In the artist’s words: “The Ganga comes first; we come from it, and we return to it. I do not adhere to any particular ‘religion’ , nor any ritualistic iconography: I am inspired by so many things. I have arrived at the inner meanings of rituals via my own natural route. I respect the potent vial of Ganga-water that my grandmother revered in her prayer-room, as the essence of a profound cycle. We are all parts of the sun, of the moon, of the pull of the water, and of the earth. I have realised that the re-birth of all materials is completely credible... In full awareness of this, I am now re-viewing my earth with great respect and reverence.”
Born in Nairobi in 1957, Trupti Patel grew up in Vadodara and the hills of Mount Abu. After an MA in Sculpture from MS University of Baroda, in 1983, she received another MA in Ceramic Sculpture at the Royal College of Art, London . Apart from solo shows, her work has been in international public collections, including the Shigaraki Ceramic Sculpture Park in Japan; Victoria & Albert Museum in London; Cartwright Hall, Bradford and Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, and Sculpture at Goodwood in Sussex. In 1995, Patel was commissioned by Gray’s Thurrock Council in Essex to make a large public work in bronze, and was a guest artist at the International Potter’s Festival in Aberystwyth in Wales. It is creditable that DLF’s very first art gallery, Alternatives, run by Manu Dosaj, has displayed some of Trupti’s most significant artistic creations. Trupti has taught at the Faculty of Fine Arts, MS University of Baroda, and was a visiting faculty at NID (National Institute of Design) in Ahmedabad. She lives and works in Vadodara, with her sculptor-husband Dhruva Mistry, since 1997.
Homeland is a unique body of ‘neo-classical’ aesthetic installations, that powerfully evokes the identity of our Land. Hence Trupti has created it with farmland-earth from all over India. The striations of our differently-coloured earth, that now lie on the gallery’s floors, may be later placed for indoor storage and display in separate vials, ‘surrounding’ the central sculpted icon. The artist’s intrinsic nature has always adhered to the principles of re-cycling. In her own candid words --- “ I dislike mall-goods and the entire mall-culture with its wasteful packaging. I get unnerved and disoriented by all unnecessary items. It is utterly wasteful to maintain ‘manicured’ lawns of grass, when people don’t have enough drinking water. I have a simple gravel-garden in Baroda, where I always use recycled water. I look after stray dogs in my area; I don’t believe in showing off fancy, expensive indoor-pets. When I was much younger, I once tried to grow orchids; when they died, I learnt the lesson of never displacing natural forms and lifestyles.” Trupti’s poetic and soulful Earth-art indeed evokes this deep and true bond with the earth.