Himmat Shah's Pandemic Drawings

Update: 2023-07-26 15:40 GMT

Before the pandemic, Himmat Shah was working at a foundry located 20 kilometres from his house in Jaipur.  When the lockdown started, he was forced to stay home.

“Sitting at home wearing a mask, I couldn’t meet anyone. I could only follow the news of the chaos related to the Coronavirus on television,” he says. And so he decided to pick up a brush and give expression to his feelings and experiences.

Himmat Shah’s “Pandemic Series” is a collection of two years of these drawings done in black ink or pencil on paper. He selected 338 of these pieces and published them as a book titled Under the Mask.

These drawings are currently on display at the Jaipur Centre of Culture and Arts (JCCA) as part of the art-life journey of the 90-year-old artist. The exhibition includes 11 of the artist’s poster prints as well as a few of his selected sculptures, including a 7.5 foot one in bronze of a pregnant woman.

Primary among the mini sculptures are two of his recent ones in diamond, being displayed in India for the first time, one titled ‘Wisdom Fruit’ and the other ‘Hammer on the Square’.

Jyotirmoyee Bhattacharya, who has curated the exhibition, first met Shah at Shantiniketan. Later, he became the project director of his biographical film Portrait of an Artist. “In every picture, Himmat Shah has left the impression of his philosophy,” says Bhattacharya about the art work.

Shah has regularly experimented with several mediums, including mud, clay, terracotta, marble, bronze and silver, and also made lithographs and etchings. However, he says that terracotta remains his favourite medium. “I believe that art comes to man and that the artist is merely the medium. For him, meaning lies in expression and not with technique,” he explains.

Asked what to expect from him in the coming years, Shah says, “All of my work is spontaneous, and nothing is decided beforehand. I am simply watching myself, and still searching for my sculptures in various materials.”

The exhibition also includes 24 black and white photographs of Shah at work and portraying his many moods over the years, captured by his friend, the renowned photographer Raghu Rai. In the past, the duo has worked on many projects together.

The show is spread over 10,000 square feet on four floors at the JCCA and will be on view until October 31. Talks and cultural programmes will also be organised from time to time, according to JCCA’s Director Monika Sharda.


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