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Sculpting forms with flair

Dimpy Menon's bronze sculptures, which are on show at the Forum Art Gallery till February 15, depict the human form through a gamut of moods and metaphors.


THE FORUM Art Gallery situated within a verdant tree lined avenue in Adyar, provides a refreshing viewing space. The large glass walls dissolve visual barriers and one settles to a feel of relaxed ambience to appreciate and enjoy the art objects displayed within the interior spaces.

Enhancing the mood and endearingly set out are the bronze sculptures of about 12" to 14". With total abandon they are sprawled in a relaxed state. One almost halts in one's tracks and for a moment a tinge of envy is experienced. The sculptor in question who arouses these emotions through her art, in a tightly packed tense life is Dimpy Menon.

An alumnus of the Government College of Arts and Crafts she graduated with majors in sculpture. It is heartening to know that as a woman she ventured into this arena fully conscious of the travails of physical labour involved.

During her admission, L. Munuswamy, the principal, questioned her predilection towards sculpture and not painting, to which Dimpy confidently replied, "that only sculpture was her interest". She attributes her growth during these formative years to R. B. Bhaskaran whom she considers a real teacher in every sense of the word. At the institution, she could not escape the firm grounding in drawing. As she says, "The strong linear quality was evident in all of the master's works, who were there as teachers including Munuswamy, Alphonso and Santhanaraj." This passion for line is evident in her sculptures, in her manipulation of body movement and reductive form. But Dimpy is equally passionate about her art. This passion is amply evident in every piece of sculpture, because each is an embodiment of her personal experiences as a `woman,' `wife', `mother', `friend' and above all a `creator'.

Dimpy is one of those artists who have stubbornly evolved an idiom, with a mindset that any modern sculptor would not influence her during her formative years. Undoubtedly a utopian ideal, but today she exudes confidence to drive home the point that she has been successful.

As for the process of conceptualisation, Dimpy confidently says, "Everything for me is concerned with my person, personal experiences and my environment." She has negotiated her artistic space with ideas generated in confrontation and encountering her `self' to mark it as an interactive centrality of her creations. This implies her experiences as being either happy or not too happy; her responses to her family particularly her adolescent son. Her dominant theme is the human body with emphasis on the female form.

Says Dimpy, "The human form is the key. Earlier my forms were most often androgynous, and now they have definitely become male or female." In treating the human form as a medium that allows interplay of light, shade and movement, Dimpy is treating it as a landscape. She enjoys the play of gentle swells and undulations of the female forms, as one would visualise a landscape with rolling hills and glades. The metaphor of Nature is an exercise for the unsaid and subsumed philosophy of her art to make human form the primal protagonist in the lexicon of her visual language. This for Dimpy becomes the site wherein she precipitates her concern for the negotiating movements, titillating the senses with their languorous pose and sensuality or dynamic motion, as in the `Acrobat' that stretches her form with masterly ease. It is an intricately conceived piece, in which the play of multiple curves makes the space vibrant. Her female forms serve as a crucible for precipitating her experiences and ideologies. The faces of all the sculptures are stereotypical, to which, she has given large Negroid protruding lips and an egg-shaped Brancusi like head.

The sculptures on display also include decorative reliefs in the tradition of the Madras Art Movement but, with a difference. They are not entirely frontal but rather have been conceived to be three-dimensional. That is, when glanced at from the side the artist has completed the form to impart dimensionality. This brings an element of surprise and allows the sculpture to create a dialogue with the viewer quietly. Methods such as these in her conceptualisation enhance the element of interest. Thus Dimpy, though projecting two-dimensionality, is simultaneously subverting it to allow access through which the third-dimensionality creeps in subtly. In addition, one notices these half images looking out through window in pensive or contemplative mood, postulating, `every artist is voyeuristic'.

Since her centrality of theme is the human form, the wide gamut provided by the poses, gestures, and actions express myriad moods, emotions, sentiments, allusions, metaphors and a spiritual dimension. Dimpy in her `Mother and Child' theme manifests maternal instincts, mediated through her immediate family as `At the Gate', where a woman embraces the child and symbolically there is a bird in flight, implying the idea of every child growing up to become an independent entity. The whole form eloquently makes a poignant statement.

Dimpy, who resides in Bangalore is a one-woman army, since she has a foundry at home and the entire process from smelting, casting, breaking the mould, cutting and filing is carried out by her. The show is on at the Forum Art Gallery till February 15.

ASHRAFI S. BHAGAT

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