A few large bronze boxes that seemed to have housed treasured artifacts in a museum welcome visitors to Kashmiri artist Rajendar Tiku’s exhibition “The Womb and the Sprout” at Gallery Threshold in Delhi. In one of them, titled Memoirs of a Lost Warrior, there is a tool made of bronze and wood that might have been used by a warrior during the Stone Age. Another, Memoirs of a Cobbler, has tools used by a cobbler. And a long knife is the subject of From the Royal Kitchen.
Born in Wadwan, a remote village in Kashmir, Tiku, a Kashmiri pandit, dwells on the realities of the present times through these works. Recipient of the National Award for sculpture and a Padma Shri awardee, Tiku says, “It is as if I have picked things from a museum. The objects belong to the past but exist in the present. It is symbolically a representation of continuity of time.” He adds, “Over a period of time, as a community, especially our Kashmiri community, we have been moved from place to place. Everything of ours is kept in boxes because we are on the move. We have become nomads. It has happened to many other communities; look at Syria, Lebanon or South Africa. There are several people migrating from one place to another, always trying to find peace and a home where they can just relax. This phenomenon has taken over human existence.”
Forced to leave his house in Kashmir years ago, when he was 30, Tiku’s longing for his childhood abode is visible in CT Scan — Head/Diagnosis: Desire for a Home, a sculptural depiction of the insides of the head in 3D format, depicting a CT scan of the head. Moon washed Bridge and the Mystery Lake, made of marble, gold glided wood and mirror, showcases the mystique and mysteriousness of a lake as visible under a moonlit sky. It serves as a reminder of fairy tales or stories that were narrated to us when we were children. “Later, one remembers those tales with a lot of passion and love. As a sculptor, I try to find an expression for those tales that take you back in time. For example, Arabian Nights are a whole bunch of stories coming out of another story,” says Tiku, 60.
Among the 20 works, including sculptures and drawings, is the installation Iris Inside (2010), where one can see the petals of the Iris flower, commonly found on the graves in Kashmir, mushrooming beside a flat platform made of bronze. “They blossom in graveyards and erupt wherever there are cracks. In fact all of us have an Iris inside us. The moment there is a crack, they blossom. Symbolically, it indicates hope. The idea is that we have goodness inside all of us and it must find a way to come out,” he says.
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