Review by Georgina Maddox
October 28, 2017


The Womb and the Sprout
Rajendar Tiku
October 27 to November 27, 2017
Threshold Art Gallery

By Georgina Maddox

Rajendar Tikku’s solo exhibition of sculptures and drawings are intimate references to the journey of life

Rajendar Tikku ‘s sculptures are contemporary pieces of art, yet they appear to be timeless, belonging to another era. They emerge out of a particular recognizable form, a boat or a recumbent figure…however they transmute into the something else. Pierced and sutured, held together with nails and tongs, they seem fragile, yet they are mysterious and possess a quiet strength. Created in bronze, terracotta, wood and stone, their size is deceptively small, buy they embrace larger narratives of displacement, home and personal history. They are intimate and draw you in for a closer look to whisper and reveal their secret mysteries to the viewer.

Tikku’s solo, ‘The Womb and the Sprout’, opened at Threshold Gallery on the October 27 with a body of works after a hiatus of eight to nine years. We wanted to know what led to this long absence from the Indian art scene. “I have been engaged in teaching at the Mushashino Art University in Tokyo and have been doing projects that have featured at international art fairs and such. I have never stopped working since my last solo in 2008. It’s just that I did not feel ready for a solo, until now,” says Tikku, over a cup of black tea at the gallery located at leafy Sarvodaya Enclave, in Delhi.

As a result, some of the works date back to 2010 while others are freshly made in 2017. There is a remarkable continuity in Tikku’s work and the only subtle changes that have occurred over the years is the experimentation with material. “Material is one of the most important elements of my work. Many of my works begin as my response to material,” says Tikku. Verbalizing sculpture is difficult, especially the kind that does not have direct references. Where the narrative emerges out of the material used, and does not precede it.

However, narrative does play an important role in his works. His series, ‘CT Scan of Head: Diagnosis desire for home’, ‘CT Scan: Reliquary’ and ‘CT Scan: Sanctuary’, indicate a kind of interiority, while commenting on the sense of dislocation that he feels while living outside Kashmir, his birthplace and hometown. “While it is not in the forefront of my narrative in an obvious way, I do belong to a culture that emanates from Kashmir. We have seen life falling apart which is why my works often speak about tying things together, trying to preserve unity and functionality, because life is precious,” says Tikku.

He indicates however that displacement is mankind’s eternal predicament. That is why his works explore the idea of taking larger journeys, where the boat is an ever-present motif and the works appear to speak to larger concerns. There are also boxes that contain some of these sutured objects, while others are closed and perpetuate a sense of mystery—hinting at hidden baggage, even while commenting on the nomadic nature of existence.

“There are many stories of dislocation of Syria, Palestine, Israel and the Native American’s…hence when talking of displacement in Kashmir, I am aware that this is a larger issue and it is not only Kashmiris who face this,” says Tiku who lives between Jammu, Jaipur and Kashmir.  

The interesting thing about this body of work is that it is not only a lament or a cry of anguish, it is also about hope. For instance, the mummy in the sarcophagus represents not death but the congealment of time. Another sculpture features a figure that has returned to the mother’s womb but is fitted with a periscope in his heart, so that he may observe the world while in the safety of the womb. In Iris Inside, there are boats gliding under a bridge, awaiting their time to venture into the river. “The Iris is a flower particular to Kashmir and in this work, I speak of how the Iris seed is in the womb of the earth, waiting for the right moment, two emerge out as a glorious flower. In the same way, we all have Irises inside us, waiting to bloom,” says Tiku. Such potential to flower and bloom is present in all of us, believes the artist.

The exhibition also showcases some of his early monochromatic drawings. The works are inspired the Devika a sacred river that remains dry most of the year round, but Kashmiris practice all their rituals along its banks. “The fish and snakes, are meant to signify the waves of water and is it a self-portrait of myself standing on the dry river bed,” explains the artist. What is most touching being that the protagonist is protective of the river even though it is an absent form.

He has been working in the medium of sculpture for the last 30 years now and he has always approached his artistic practice as a phenomenon rather than just a piece of sculpture. It is a psycho-spatial relation, where the sculpture manifests and he returns to it again and again to find himself with the hope of gaining new meaning to his existence from these works.