For Sree Banerjee Goswami, director of Mumbai’s Project 88, hosting an exhibition rooted in physicality was a deliberate endeavour, given the extended periods of distance and solitude. “We opened the show when things were looking a little better. It had to be very tactile; something that brought in the desire to touch, which we couldn’t do all these days,” says Goswami. Cue Khageswar Rout’s first solo exhibition at the gallery, which in Goswami’s own words, is a “show that needs to be experienced”. Annex and Dissever witnesses a blend of both organic and manmade elements to address humankind’s arbitrary need to comprehend and categorize a realm as limitless as nature. Rout’s examination of nature’s perishables such as seeds, fruits, flowers, barks of trees—the works—become the central focus of his study, which, according to Goswami, is “captured in a very fragile way through the use of terracotta. We wanted to look at works which ask you to reconsider the contemporary significance of craftsmanship.”
Rout—who prefers to work by hand and with as few tools as possible—finds the malleability of terracotta and clay to be a perfect symbol for his love of natural objects. “Organic forms are complete both internally and externally. If you’re carving materials like stone or wood, you’re always only exposed to the upper surface. Earthenware, however, can be sculpted layer-by-layer in countless ways; I feel connected to it emotionally.” The sculptor’s years-long fascination with the form, growth, internal workings, and chromatic variations related to vegetal matter reveals an unfathomable truth about the seemingly comprehensive patterns we attach to them; in that they aren’t real. His professor, Debasish Bhattacharya, writes in the exhibition essay: “While plant bodies are highly integrated by design and function, the intrinsic sense of order that their disciplined patterns seem to embody is misleading. Nature evolves only by responding to nature, not to reason.”
Apart from the existentialism it seeks to realize, the hyper-realistic sculptures of Annex and Dissever are an attempt at countering the newfound flatness to how we function by bringing in a sense of touch and threedimensionality. The surge in virtual exhibitions, online viewing rooms, and our generally expanded digital footprint was bound to eventually create an impertinent desire to move away from the same. “I really admire the display, and his [Rout’s] conviction to go with everything low-lying on the floor. You can navigate your way around the exhibition and be fully immersed in it. Every object is different and it stays that way.” Annex and Dissever will remain on view till 30 June 2021.
TEXT: SHRISTI SINGH