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Artist of the Day | Himmat Shah

Himmat Shah


acrylic on canvas

58.5 x 59.5 cm


Himmat Shah was born in 1933 at Lothal in Gujarat. After initially training as a drawing teacher, he studied painting at the Faculty of Fine Arts of M.S. University, Baroda, from 1956 to 1960. He was a National Cultural Scholar in 1956, and received a French Government scholarship to study etching at Atelier 17, Paris in 1967.

Shah was a member of Group 1890, a short-lived artists’ collective founded by J. Swaminathan. The then Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, opened the group’s first and only show in 1963. The group dispersed soon after, and each of its members, including Shah, continued their artistic practices with their own agendas.

Shah’s predilection for drawing was natural. Being an inexpensive, transformative and free form of expression, it appealed to him in his negotiations with form and space. If one looks at his early drawings closely, one discovers the skill behind the chaotic black lines. These works are never predictable, and deeply ironic in the manner in which they use a simple medium to interpret complex contemporary visual fields.

From 1967 to 1971, Himmat Shah designed and executed monumental murals in brick, cement and concrete at St. Xavier's School Ahmedabad. Since then, he started working on relief and sculpture in plaster, terracotta and ceramics. Shah’s sculptures in bronze and terracotta explore materiality, texture and the various ways in which reality can be presented. They internalize the built-in obsolescence of consumerist society. His gilded objects of clay have the traces of paintings on them and there are unreadable hieroglyphs gouged into his series of metal heads. These are self-mocking elements, speaking of age and decay.

Shah’s solo exhibitions include ‘Drawings and Sculptures’ presented by Studio Confluence at Jehangir Nicholson Art Gallery, Mumbai, in 2007; a show at Saffronart and Berkley Square Gallery, London, in 2007; ‘Sculpture’ at Art Heritage, New Delhi, in 2002; and others held at Anant Art Gallery, New Delhi, in 2005; Shridharani Gallery, New Delhi, in 2000; Sakshi Gallery, Mumbai, in 1994; the Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi, in 1982; and Max Mueller Bhavan, New Delhi in 1973.

Himmat Shah’s work has been a part of many groups shows, including ‘Yellow Deity: Contemporary Indian Art’ at the Ludwig Museum, Budapest, in 1997; Rediscovering the Roots’ at Museo de la Nacion, Lima, in 1997; ‘Ninth Triennale - Seven Artists from the Collection’ at the National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi, also in 1997; ‘Festival of Indian Art’, Moscow, in 1996; and the Biennale de Paris in 1967 and 1970.

In 2003, the artist was conferred with the Kalidasa Samman by the Government of Madhya Pradesh. Shah has also received the All India Fine Arts and Crafts Society (AIFACS) Award, New Delhi, in 1996, and the Sahitya Kala Parishad Award, New Delhi, in 1988.

In 2016, the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art held hammer on the square, a retrospective showcasing Shah’s famous terracotta sculptures, bronzes, and drawings, along with lesser-known murals, burnt paper collages and silver paintings.

The artist lives and works in New Delhi.

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