“I love to believe that it was I who traveled through the long stretches of time and space. Here I am, standing, and there he is, my old self, peeping through the canvas. The cave man used to scratch and draw on those dark cave walls the movement of his fellow beings and some running animals. I believe I must have existed even then as an artist, as I do now.”

The New Delhi based artist Rameshwar Broota celebrated his 61st birthday in February 2002. He graduated in Fine Arts from the Delhi College of Art in 1954, and soon after joined there as a lecturer. In 1958, he moved on to Jamia Milia Islamia and then to the Sarda Ukil College. However, he did not stay long in any of these institutes.

In 1975, he visited France under a cultural exchange program, which led to an exhibition at the National Art Fair held in Cagnes-sur-mer, Paris, in 1976. He also exhibited at the III, IV and V Tienniales in India. He has exhibited his works in Europe, at the Museum of Modern Art in Oxford, the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington and the Darmstadt Museum in Germany. In 1980, Broota exhibited his works in Japan, Bangladesh, Cuba, Iraq and Geneva.

The icons and images are all part of his subconscious self, Broota says and at times he may have seen them in reality. As an artist, he feels that he may choose to reveal or recreate the immediate reality, but he also dwells into the inexhaustible past. “The unconscious is a store house of immense knowledge and impressions which an individual absorbs and retains with him. When he assumes the body of an infant, he inherits the sum total of the experiences of his predecessor from time immemorial,” he points out.

His Gorilla series, for instance, “tried to depict a pre-human reality typified by a terrifying brutality,” says Broota. “Over the years that feeling has been toned down. Now there is a certain mystic quality to my paintings.”

The artist is known for his paintings of muscular male bodies. After painting these bodies, he vigorously scrapes them with the help of a sharp knife, to give them a luminous, almost translucent look. Over the years, he has perfected the technique in which he first applies paint layers of different hues, and then scratches and scrapes away the upper surface of the painting with the help of a sharp knife.

Broota won the National Award presented by the Lalit Kala Akademi in 1980, 81 and then 1984. Since 1984, he has been the head of the department of art in Triveni Kala Sangam, New Delhi.

Rameshwar Broota lives and works out of New Delhi