Akar Prakar and WelcomHotel Sheraton New Delhi have put together the Meera Mukherjee show as a collateral event of India Art Fair 2012. The show is on till 4th February 2012.
After a very long gap, Delhi viewers have the privilege of seeing a series of remarkable sculptures that Meera Mukherjee had conceived and fashioned in mostly bronze, but also ceramic and terracotta. Mukherjee's sculptures are famed for their strength of form and for the way they communicate the artist's vision to all who see them.
Meera Mukherjee's bronze images have been admired by artists and critics across the country. Visitors to ITC Maurya often pause at the evocative sculpture of Emperor Asoka which stands at Nandiya Garden. But alas, despite all the acclaim she received in her lifetime, Meera Mukherjee remains a somewhat mysterious figure, considered by many a recluse and eccentric. And certainly for the present generation she will always be an enigma. So this ongoing show is a very special treat for the present generation of viewers as well as for all lovers of Mukherjee's works.
In this show one was overwhelmed by the wonderful sculptures of Bauls. In her work and life, Meera's approach is much like that of "the mad mystics of Bengal" who have often been the subject of her bronzes. They express the soul's yearning for union with the divine, with songs that are sometimes irreverent and nonconformist in their attitude to religion, to society and to god. The Bauls play upon a one-stringed instrument called the ektara, clap their hands, recite, gyrate and whirl themselves into ecstasy. In expressing their dance, the sculptor tries to capture the essence of their mood, with tense, lithe bodies that strain upward, creating a world that is cupped within their outstretched arms.
Meera received inspiration from the Baul singers almost six decades ago, when she worked with the Indonesian artist Affandi, who was then visiting Santiniketan. Let us consider her images on music alone. She focuses upon an alaap singer. This term which is used technically in the first movement of a raga, is also used in Bengal to suggest acquaintance or the first initiative in getting to know someone. The remarkable figure thus titled, gives us the feeling of both being a personification of the first section of a raga as well as of an individual who is seated in conversation. Another one is of a musician playing the drum. The figures are small, squat and compact. Their entire bodies are attuned to the instruments and to the spirit of music. They are lyrical and yet so poignant.
There are still figures too. There is a solitary ceramic figure called Encounter. And two extremely sensitive terracotta figures of a woman carrying a child and a pithoo at Kasauli. It has rightly been observed by Reena Lath of Akar Prakar that “what is remarkable is the lyricism and movement that one senses in her stationary and solid sculptures. Her sensibility is visible in her forms and subjects. For Meera, art was in the small details of daily living: a man singing, a lady playing veena, a pithoo carrying a child on his back, a mother and child ..."
In contrast is the image titled 'Fiery Nataraj'. This refers to the Lord of Dance, with the third eye inscribed upon his forehead and the damaru or drum of creation held in his hand. Yet as he dances, the golden flaming aureole is twisted out of shape and recognition; the snakes coil and uncoil along his attenuated arms. The arms themselves become snake-like and the flowing mane of hair radiates energy in all directions. In this inspired image, Meera has liberated herself from all norms of iconography. The image is so fluid in movement that it becomes a symbol of energy.
Meera Mukherjee had got a scholarship to study at the Art Academy at Munich. When she came back she groped for a form of expression that would relate to Indian sensibility. A fellowship from the Anthropological Survey of India took her to the tribals at Bastar in the heart of Madhya Pradesh where the Gherua bell metal workers had practiced metal craft for centuries. She adopted this bronze casting method and perfected a technique in bronze that was completely her own.
Thank you Sheraton, New Delhi and Akar Prakar, Kolkata for bringing this very special show to us here in Delhi.