That Manjunath Kamath is a collector of folk art and has a fascination for traditional temple sculptures, dilapidated havelis and traditional ritual masks wasn’t known until now. His latest exhibition testifies to these influences, which have impacted his medium and expression. In “Postponed Poems”, his solo at Gallery Espace, Kamath returns to the world he was familiar with as a child growing up in the temple town of Mangalore, amid sculptors and craftspeople. “I learnt my basics in art from them, it’s much later that I came to know about art schools,” says Kamath, 42.
While the exhibition might be typical of Kamath in its wit, references to the mythological and the historical are more recent. Cast in terracotta, his sculptures combine the classical and the traditional. The trademark clay animation is absent, as are the photo narratives. The artist, instead, borrows from Indian miniatures for his delicate paper work and the gold leaf portrait drawings reference Buddhist Thangka paintings. So the Urdwalingakaratalamalaka pieces together terracotta in different colours to give a contemporary face to the urdwalinga Shiva sculpture (Shiva with erected genital), from 18th century Badami temple. “It’s like a re-writing history, a metaphor for the present situation where history has been manipulated,” says Kamath.
Intertwined in multiple limbs, for Kamath the man with several hands in Study For Innocent God is a godly figure created by him. It is how he imagines god to be, after scouring through a book on Shilpi Shastra. Like most others in Hindu mythology, the god has a vehicle too, in Vahana a hi-bred animal, with legs of a lion and a cow and the body of a bull. Kamath does not intend to return to his own history of fibreglass. “It’s too synthetic. Terracotta has an earthy nature and fragility. It’s also what remains, artefacts from Indus civilisation have sustained till now,” he says.
“Postponed Poems” is on at Gallery Espace until February 28. Contact: 26326267