Delhi-based artist Rajesh Ram’s bronze sculptures in Delhi’s Palette Art gallery are like storytellers revealing the reality of the present times. A child shuts his eyes with his hands while seated on top of an ostrich, depicting how the common population chooses to stay numb and shuts their eyes on matters of grave importance. Much like how an ostrich digs a hole in the ground and hides his face in the face of danger. “Doesn’t the case hold true with what is happening with Padmaavat? A majority of people in India choose to ignore and not say a word about it,” says the sculptor from Jharkhand whose latest solo “I Wonder” allows viewers to ponder over pertinent issues through 10 sculptures and 14 paintings.
His work titled Discipline, where a young boy stands in a stiff, attention position, like children do in morning assemblies in schools, is a sculpture with shiny gold exteriors, and indicates how the majority of population is moulded as per rules and regulations imposed by the society. “We are expected to be disciplined and follow all the decisions that are imposed on us by the government. It implemented the GST last year and the citizens of the country had no choice but to follow it strictly, even if they didn’t feel like doing it,” says Ram, 40. The painting titled Clenched, where the arms of an octopus erupt from the exteriors of the Parliament as if trying to get the common man within its grip, draws on similar lines.
“I make mixed works and often base them on tales from the Panchatantra, or on political issues and socially relevant messages, and narrate them through a storytelling format,” says Ram. Many other imageries in the show draw from his early childhood experiences of growing up in a native village in Jharkhand, much of which are missing in a metropolis like Delhi that he now resides in. Messenger, the sculpture of another boy which seems to be screaming loudly at someone, is a recollection of how the artist would shout out to his uncle while being stationed miles away in the neighbouring field. The echo of his voice signaled lunch hour or an impending task. An answer from the distance would soon follow. An Indian farmer’s daughter also turns into the artist’s muse in Pageant. She is shown overturned on the ground and her hip-length ponytail grows out into vegetables. “This shows how a farmer’s daughter tries to make ends meet by first lending a helping hand in the farm and then trying to manage her education simultaneously,” says Ram.
A watercolour titled Trash House shows a luxurious house built on a bed of garbage beneath. “Isn’t it strange that people first litter and then clean it. In an unauthorised colony in Delhi’s Vikas Nagar, where I live, I have often seen builders make top class buildings on a base of littered garbage from the past, without even clearing it,” says Ram. A boy on skates with termites instead of a head stares at the residual remains of a bunch of houses that appear to have crashed into the ground in Decline. The artist interprets 9/11 and 26/11 terrorist attacks through the work. “Just like how the termites eat wood and make it hollow from inside, these terrorist groups enter the society in an unsuspecting manner, and slowly destroy it from within,” concludes Ram.