Table for Two: A Journey Within

This article was originally published in the Hindu.

Over a frugal meal, artist Rameshwar Broota discusses his minimalism, embracing technology and the man on his canvases

A vegetarian tom yum soup, crispy eggplant and spring rolls are all Rameshwar Broota settles for at lunch with us in Jasmine restaurant of The Royal Plaza. No matter how monumental his canvases might be, the minimalism of his visual vocabulary does hint at his simple tastes in life.

“Lunch is always light, so is breakfast. I like tasty food if that qualifies me to be called a foodie,” says Broota. The tom yum soup, with all the goodness of vegetables, wins his approval. “I am not very fond of eating out but on those rare occasions that I do, I prefer South Indian food or, at times, Thai cuisine. I love dosa,” says Broota who, before heading out to take his art classes at Triveni Kala Sangam, has a glass of cold milk with some dry fruits and sometimes “a small parantha”.

At 73, Rameshwar Broota is having his retrospective ‘Visions of interiority: Interrogating the Male Body’ at Kiran Nadar Museum of Art (KNMA), Saket. Curator Roobina Karode has gathered more than 50 works of Broota from all over the country to showcase different phases in his artistic career between 1963 and 2013. “Only a private museum like KNMA could have managed something like this. There are several phases in my career but the way it has been laid out it looks like a journey, a very coherent narrative.”

The ape series made way for the metamorphosis series which was followed by architectural forms in a dialogue with human forms. The latest in his oeuvre are works cloaked in humour and sarcasm. Never before had he tackled subjects like consumption, the market and poverty the way he does now, taking the help of humour. After all, the viewers, for all these years, had become used to his stark and gloom laden works.

But in this journey of change, there has been one constant element. A male figure has been at the centre of his universe through which he has meditated on everything from existential issues to satire. “My man is universal. Its representation might have undergone several changes in my work but he stays there,” explains the senior artist, who studied Fine Art at Delhi College of Art.

At some point technology also entered his world and enriched his repertoire. “I was perhaps one of the first few artists to be using a computer. I bought a computer sometime in mid ’90s and had a teacher come to teach me the discipline. I am a photographer too. I have Nikon D800 and I have a Mac but I am not a gadget freak. I use a very simple phone but since my work is detailed and huge I need these aids,” says Broota, who has been taking pictures since his college years.

Of the very few women he has painted, one is his wife, artist Vasundhara Broota, on whom the woman in a triptych is based.

Lost in her own world, she sits oblivious to the happenings around her. “Because the woman painted is very fat, at times Vasundhara asks me why I showed her like that. Our daughter, in fact, gets more upset and asks Vasundhara how she allowed me to show her so fat. This work is from my collection and I will never sell it.”