Explore, express, enrich – creativity insights from the Gallery Espace exhibitions

In this photo essay, we share artworks and insights from Renu Modi, Founder-Director of Gallery Espace, and artist Shobha Broota.
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Launched in 2014, PhotoSparks is a weekly feature from YourStory, with photographs that celebrate the spirit of creativity and innovation. In the earlier 550 posts, we featured an art festival, cartoon gallery. world music festivaltelecom expomillets fair, climate change expo, wildlife conference, startup festival, Diwali rangoli, and jazz festival.

In this pictorial essay, we share exhibition highlights from Gallery Espace in New Delhi, along with director and artist insights. From September 4-14, the gallery features canvases created by Shobha Broota and sculptures of Mekhala Bahl.

Renu Modi established Gallery Espace with the encouragement of MF Husain, who also designed its galloping horse logo. The gallery has worked with several generations of artists down the years – Akbar Padamsee, Manjit Bawa, Krishna Reddy, Laxma Gaud, Mrinalini Mukherjee, and Kishnamachari Bose, among many others.

Gallery Espace

Renu Modi

“Gallery Espace opened with the purpose of showcasing the art practice of the time, by both established and emerging artists. When I started out in 1989, there was little emphasis on drawing, sculpture, printmaking, women artists, or video art,” explains Renu Modi, Director of Gallery Espace, in a chat with YourStory.

She decided to concentrate on these lacunae, and organised curated exhibitions at public galleries, along with workshops and discussions. The Gallery has also come out with a range of publications, and participates in fairs such as Art Basel Hong Kong, Art Dubai, and India Art Fair (see our five-part coverage of the 2020 edition here).

“We publish elaborate catalogues that offer in-depth art-historical and critical essays of these artwork categories,” Renu adds.

Renu Modi

The gallery’s strategy has continuously changed with the times. “There was little international interest in Indian contemporary art in the early years, but that changed by the early 2000s,” she recalls.

“Our audience has been growing consistently. It has become international, and the number of younger collectors who are eager to learn is growing too,” Renu adds. The gallery also features poetry reading, conversations with artists, and now webinars in the pandemic era.

“For me success, has never depended on anyone's validation. I have never done shows or taken on artists to please any audience. I have always looked inward,” she emphasises.

“My award? It’s when young artists or collectors tell me that some comment I made or an artwork I showed has changed their life. When I inculcate a young collector into looking at art differently from the usual investment angle – that is my award,” Renu affirms.

The pandemic has had a major impact on the art world. “The enforced isolation gave me a lot of time to reflect on where I was going both personally and professionally,” she recalls.

Renu also offers words of advice for aspiring artists. “Make art for yourself and not for the market. Social media helps but cannot be the be-all and end-all of your career,” she suggests.

“Only substance survives in the long run. Reflect on your work all the time. Continue working and show your work to seniors you believe in,” Renu advises.

She sums up: “Art has enriched my life!”

Shobha Broota

Shobha Broota’s exhibition is titled Explorations of Thread and Colour. Born in New Delhi, she was trained as a classical Indian vocalist before studying fine art. Her techniques include flicking paint from a brush onto the surface of the painting with the fingers.

Her abstract artworks blend rhythm, colours and texture for a meditative effect. Shobha’s earlier works include portraits, woodcuts, etchings, oil, acrylic and fabrics, and have been exhibited overseas in Malaysia, Guyana, and Australia as well.

“Art for me is an inevitable activity, for preserving my life. It gives me immense pleasure to indulge in it. It nurtures me, it gives me freedom to explore my inner being, but it also connects me to the outer world,” she explains.

Shobha Broota

“Art allows me to enjoy ethereal as well as material pleasure. The freedom to experiment with any material takes me beyond the limits of material. Through the medium of art, I have found my focus, my own centre point – from where I draw energy to achieve what seems impossible,” Shobha adds.

She sees creativity as an exploration within her inner being, from where intuitiveness and spontaneity take her beyond the limits of her “thinking-mind” into “no-mind”.

“I define success for myself when some unknown experience gets revealed to me through my art, that’s why I say that art is an exploration. The process of doing art gives me immense joy and limitless satisfaction, as compared to material success and awards – although they have their own value too,” Shobha describes.

Unitled, Wool on canvas, 72 x 72 inches 2019

“My success depends on my surrender to the directions of the Creator who leads me along. I become an instrument who follows the dictates of the divine Creator. This has been my approach to my work and the result is for everyone to witness,” she affirms.

She calls for more appreciation of art in India by exposing children and youth to see museums, art galleries, temples, and other monuments that are treasure houses of Indian art.

“I prefer tours and visits to be arranged on a regular basis from a very young age. The youth should also be encouraged to visit zoos and national parks to get acquainted with natural beauty that is in abundance and is scattered all over the country,” Shobha says.

Transcend, Thread on canvas, 36 x 36 inches 2008

She says she does not prepare her paintings for exhibitions. “Exhibitions just happen. My way of working is just like playing with material which I collect often from visits to different places,” she describes.

“I follow my instincts and work spontaneously. The painting itself decides when I should stop working on it. It is a beautiful experience,” Shobha enthuses.

The pandemic has made many artists pause in their tracks and reflect. “I found the coronavirus as a divine intervention, which made me aware of my duties towards respecting nature that sustains us. It has opened our eyes towards human weaknesses as well as graciousness,” she recalls.

Untitled (white circle on blue) by Shobha Broota

“We are given a chance to improve ourselves at different levels. As an artist, I am still working against all odds while hoping for circumstances to improve,” Shobha explains.

She advises aspirants of art to be aware of being truthful, to look for challenges that will help them work hard, and to enjoy the process of working. “The process of working is more enjoyable than the result achieved, so do not give up,” she suggests.

“Do not succumb to failures, they will be there to give you strength to continue as a challenge. Leave your comfort zone, to express and explore,” she adds.

“There is a vast expanse of creative arena in which you create – you are there to realise your potential. Just have trust in yourself and carry on with perseverance, you will certainly achieve the unachievable,” Shobha signs off.

Now, what have you done today to pause in your busy schedule and find new avenues for your creative core?

Unitled, Thread & acrylic on canvas, 36 x 36 inches 2017

Coiled Together, Wool on canvas, 35 x 35 inches 2005

Coiled Together, Wool on canvas, 35 x 35 inches 2005

Unitled, Thread & acrylic on canvas, 60 x 60 inches 2017

Untitled, Oil & acrylic on canvas, 48 x 48 inches 2011

Shobha Broota

Renu Modi

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(All images provided by Gallery Espace)

Edited by Teja Lele Desai

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