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Gods in glass

Gods in glass
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The Gods in Glass merges two of the artist Uma Singh’s abiding interests: the gods as form and glass as a medium. The first presented itself as far back as 1955 when, the artist Uma Singh as a girl encountered India’s amazing sculpture tradition in Konark and the temples of Bhubaneswar.

The second, the fascination with glass, grew on her as she grew up in Calcutta, gazing at beautiful stained glass, in her school church and in many stately mansions. Her fascination with coloured glass had actually started with a toy—a kaleidoscope—and turned into a serious pursuit after her exposure to exquisite stained glass in Europe during her travels abroad when she resolved to make it herself.

And she did, from 1982, holding several exhibitions of it after having battled lots of trials and errors. But a yearning for something more stirred in her: the desire to work with three-dimensional form without abandoning her romance with glass. That would mean trying out something rather new, something that hadn’t been experimented with in quite the way she envisaged the complex technique this art would demand. But she was committed to the challenge. And thus did her two deep passions come together in this show, the gods and glass. Both magical in their spell.

The forms that she wished to reinvent in glass captivated her. The rhythm of the lines in Nataraj, the dynamic grace of Durga, the simplified geometry of the Ganesha image had to be expressed in a style that followed the naturalistic contours of the original sculpture while paring down details for expressive economy. Simultaneously, exploiting the transparency of the material to induce the play of light and its refraction through broken pieces was also on her mind. Hence, she wished to have both smooth surfaces and ruggedly textured ones. While a few abstract works have flow and finish, building up the images with glass pieces creates a rippling tactility that invites light but cuts it up subtly, also.

But the show isn’t only about traditional imagery reinvented through new material and a new technique. Nor is it about the immense commitment in terms of time and resources she invested in it. Nor about the ironic symbolism of transferring the gods from durable stone to brittle glass in an age of flawed and fallible icons. This is mainly about illuminating an allegiance—both emotional and intellectual—that she feels towards her roots, towards her creative identity. An identity scripted by a curious amalgam of heritage, technology and individual vision.
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