There is an unmistakably surreal quality about many of the photographs that make up Rameshwar Broota’s exhibition at the Aakriti Art Gallery (This End To The Other, till November 30). Consider the untitled photograph that depicts an individual, the body partially covered in sheets, sleeping on a bed. At the far end of the bed, one can see a jet plane leaving streaks of white, vertical lines in a sky dotted with floating clouds. The photograph seems to evoke a sense of the unreal: a figure asleep on a bed covered in white linen that seems to be floating in the sky.
What Broota aims to achieve in this and some other images — another diptych combines the image of the sky covered with speck-like avians with that of the head of an old, silver-haired man — is to push the boundaries of perception in an attempt to reconstruct reality. What is heartening is Broota’s deliberate attempt to keep the tension alive between the two images that are juxtaposed to create a composite. It is this lack of harmony between the two worlds that Broota merges into one in a frame that brings about a deeper engagement with the vignettes.
Broota’s training as an artist has fuelled in him a fascination with geometric shapes and linear forms. This is evident from the close attention he pays to patterns and textures of the settings he captures on film. There is considerable manipulation of depth and distance, especially in the photograph titled This End to the Other. The sinuous, black line that snakes across the surface seems to split the landmass into two halves. But one is not quite sure what that tapering line is. Is it a crack on the surface, a meandering river or merely a branch hanging over a ground comprising pebbles and tufts of grass? This wilful smudging of the markers of identity lends a mysterious dimension to the photographs.
The portrayals of the human body are rich in detail as well. Creases and folds in the skin, bulges and hollows, hair follicles, and so on, have been depicted closely, transforming the human body into an unidentifiable natural object. The body as a symbol of the natural world is an idea that has been extensively explored and much experimented upon. But Broota introduces intriguing elements in these frames, such as a teardrop or a bead of blood, to tease out a response from the mystified viewer. The obsession with detail suggests Broota’s desire to exercise control over each element of his creations. But his methodical approach does not mitigate his ability to transcend boundaries, both real and imagined.
My favourite photograph, however, is the one that shows an immense structure made of bricks covered with roots and veins (Nature Tapestries-I, picture). There is a terror associated with the idea of a lifeless space being slowly swallowed by creepers. Perhaps it invokes an apocalyptic vision of a future when nature would wreak her terrible revenge upon an indifferent world.