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Sculpting the `irrelevant'


T. PREMJEE condemns installations and abstracts and dumps them outside the cultural ethos of his native Kerala. "These are theories that have come from Europe and have been lapped up by us." And so, whether he is painting or sculpting Premjee doesn't stray far from his chosen domain, of representing the men and women who inhabit this land.


But wait. These are not the celebrated, historical figures whose busts you might find displayed in the halls of fame. The old woman bending over her machine could easily be the colony's lone seamstress; not far, the `lady in a sari' after finishing with her daily chores, takes a short break from the monotony of it all. Premjee's marquette-sized pieces of sculpture are a tribute to the working class. Because his style doesn't fit in with the current trends of art and neither do his themes, he calls his exhibition `The irrelevant.' Tired bodies are kneaded and bent; lead characters are distorted, their limbs twisted and stretched to a breaking point. They could easily pass off as the innumerous objects d'art churned out by craftsmen for sale in cottage industries. But it is in the construction of their faces that the artist scores. Each is endowed with a calm spirituality that emanates from within, the soul detached from the body as it were. The rugged textures on the body, with their ridges and grooves and corrugated surfaces add substance to his chosen theme. The faces are angular, almost mannered in style. In both thought and style, artist Breughel influences Premjee. Even as he is set in an unattainable acrobatic posture, The Thinker's head, his most necessary asset, is relatively balanced.Premjee's women and men typify the environment where he has grown up. The women are devoid of clichés and he succeeds in imparting to them a fresh look. Whatever task they may be engrossed in; they are portrayed in the context of warm affection of motherhood and love. The old lady with a large head but a frail body could very well be his grandmother! He works in bronze; the process that he says is both laborious and technically taxing. Unlike in painting where the artist gets immediate gratification, in bronze sculpture he waits for the cast to set before setting eyes on the end image. Moreover, sculpture with its three dimensions gives more scope to the artist to exploit his medium. Achieving a balance is especially tough in sculpture where artistic attributes have to match with a sound foundation in craft. Premjee manages to walk this tightrope. Nature provides an immediate visual to him. Premjee is also a critic of issues such as globalisation and market oriented philosophy and has highlighted this in some of his earlier works as a painter. His exhibition was on at the Kashi Art Café.

SUNANDA KHANNA

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