On at Mumbai’s Jehangir Art Gallery is a week-long exhibition of sculptures by New York based artist Raj Shahani. Originally from the western-suburb of Chembur, this is a home-coming for Shahani. The exhibition brings together a selection of 25 clay sculptures from the series titled Emotion, inspired by the movements of the human body through a detailed observation of dancers in motion. Looking at the works, it is easy for one to think that the artist has been making sculptures for years. The fact is that the 22 works on display are a body of work compiled over the past two years. “I just really surprise myself; it’s a blessing,” says Raj Shahani.
The show, put together by Gallery Art & Soul, is Shahani’s first. The reason for having his first show in Mumbai is that the city is very important to him. “I have so much to prove to everyone. So much unfinished business,” he says. The works on sale are priced at Rs3 – 5 lakh.
Shahani says that sculpture found him. A retired businessman, it was by chance that he walked into the American Institute of Art in New York, and tried out their sculpture workshop. While the other participants had been doing sculptures for years, he turned out a good one in a couple of hours. Then it just became an obsession. Interestingly, he had liked art as a child, but his parents and teachers took his art supplies away from him and he didn’t touch any art since grade 8. Till after his retirement.
Shahani sculpts in clay, and then casts in bronze or brass. Some works are made in fiber glass and then metal. “Most of it I do with my eyes closed. I keep working, and when I get an emotion, I stop. It just comes out like this,” he says. Photography has been Shahani’s hobby. The photographs he took of dancers, monks, made an impression in his mind. “They were easy to translate in sculpture,” says Shahani. Well, if you have the time to catch it, it’s worth a see.