Jhaveri Contemporary is proud to present an exhibition of works by Dhruva Mistry that explores the artist’s approach—consistent yet varied, across media as well as over time—to the human figure. Included are seminal early sculptures in fibreglass, drawings in pastel, gilded plaster reliefs and unique bronzes.
Two of the earliest works in the exhibition are Walking Man and Sitting Man—life size sculptures in fibreglass (both 1981). The ascetic male figures are presented naked and bald, with the simplest gestures. Working in this particular medium—it should be noted that Mistry was deeply influenced by John Davies—the sculptor was able to free himself from the constraints of traditional stone, wood and metal, and could also present these elemental forms without the burden of a pedestal. With Seated Figure and Spatial Diagram 3, both sculptures of the female body from the late 1980s, Mistry moves towards representation that is at once abstracted and a felt experience. The extent to which parts of the body—breasts, arms, legs—are treated leads to their assuming a role that is more than simply descriptive.
Four works from the series Bad Infinite: Delight of the Reason (1992–93) are included in this show. These gold-leafed plaster reliefs vivify the interplays between artist and muse, the ‘gunas’ and ‘rasas’, the basic meanings of man and woman and animal. Mistry also refers to the Minotaur legend, and to Picasso’s treatment of it, and in doing so places himself in the lineage of artists who work with mythological themes. Hanuman: Study for a Spatial Metaphor refers specifically to a popular story in the Ramayana and Moving Mountain 2 to one about the child Krishna. In the former work, Mistry also explores frontality—sculpture that requires concentrated viewing from several angles. In Dialectal Images, a series of assemblages or collages, disparate objects come together to form a whole, often the human figure. Strong references to tribal art, masked figures in particular, recall as well the practice of Picasso and Julio Gonzalez, who recreated sculptural language through assemblage or construction rather than modelling.
Influences and inspirations do not of course define or delimit Mistry, but eclecticism is central to his practice. He draws from the richness of many traditions, ancient and modern. References to classical sculpture—Indian, Assyrian, Egyptian—are central to his work, and he has long acknowledged the influence on his work of masters such as Henry Moore and Brancuși. He is also concerned, conceptually, with the interaction between artist and viewer and what it means for a work of art to mediate between the two. This breadth and scope of reference is matched by the diversity of materials employed and by the many scales of his work, from maquettes to monumental public commissions. Mistry has said: ‘At 23, I felt as free as Michelangelo to tackle whatever I liked.’ He added to this, though, referring to the artistic practice of a lifetime: ‘Still, this leaves me with the host of problems that are uniquely and diversely displaced in my pursuit.’
Dhruva Mistry was born in Kanjaia, Gujarat, in 1957. He studied at the Faculty of Fine Arts, The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, from 1974 to 1981. He was awarded a British Council Scholarship to the Royal College of Art, London, where he studied from 1981 to 1983.
His first solo exhibition was held at Art Heritage, New Delhi, touring to the Jehangir Art Gallery, Bombay (Mumbai), in 1982. He was Artist in Residence at Kettle’s Yard, with a Fellowship at Churchill College, Cambridge (1984–5) and since then he has shown regularly in India, UK and elsewhere. He was Sculptor in Residence at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London (1988), represented Britain at the Third Rodin Grand Prize Exhibition, Japan (1990) and was selected for the solo show Asian Artists Today — Fukuoka Annual VII, by the Fukuoka Art Museum, Japan (1994). In 1992 he was commissioned by Birmingham City Council to design sculptures for Victoria Square, Birmingham, for which he received several awards, and in 1998 he was selected for the Millennium Medal Competition, London. His work has also been included in group shows in India and abroad since 1976.
Dhruva Mistry was elected Royal Academician in 1991, Fellow of the Royal Society of British Sculptors in 1993 and was awarded an Honorary CBE in 2001. He returned to India in 1997 after 16 years in the UK and was, until 2002, Professor, Head of Sculpture and Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts at The M. S. University of Baroda. In 2006 he received an Award of Excellence from the Gujarat Gaurav Samiti and Birmingham City University awarded him an Honorary Doctorate in 2007. Dhruva Mistry lives and works in Vadodara (formerly Baroda).