Born 1966 Rajasthan (Salari).
1990 Five year Diploma in Painting from Jaipur, Rajasthan.
1993 MFA Painting, College of Art, New Delhi.
1993 Vadhera art gallery New Delhi.
1994 Jehangir art gallery Mumbai.
1997 Vadhera art gallery New Delhi.
1997 Jehangir art gallery Mumbai.
2002 Visual Resonance, Art Alive Gallery, New Delhi.
2004 Invisible Links IHC Art Alive Gallery, New Delhi.
2006 Dvait- Advait IHC, New Delhi.
2007 Aakaar- Nirakaar at Lalit Kala Academy, New Delhi.
2010 Transit Lotus.
2012 Rejuvenation at Dhoomimal City Gallery.
1992-94 In Search of Talent, Vadhera Art Gallery, New Delhi.
1993-99 National Art Exhibition, LKA New Delhi.
1997 All India First Biennial Art Exhibition, Jaipur Rajasthan.
2002-03 Group Exhibition at Denmark, Hong Kong, Singapore.
2003 Joy of Life and Only Connect Art Alive Gallery, New Delhi.
2004 Indian artists for France Embassy of France New Delhi.
2004 Art Voyage Nehru Center, London.
2005 Arid International Biennial, Romania.
2005 Bridges by Gallery Art Alive New Delhi.
2006 Real 2006 Matters of art .com, India Habitat Center.
2006 Arts in Art curated by Vinod Bhardwaj at Shridharani Gallery.
2006 Digressing Domains Curated by Sushma Bahl at Lalit Kala Academy.
2007 Art National by gallery 5 New Delhi.
2007 Himalayan Odessey By Art Home Gallery, New Delhi.
2008 Inside Out Outside In Curated by Dr. Alka Pande, Jaipur Rajasthan.
2008 Group Show at Khushii, New Delhi.
2008 Continuum curated by Sushma K. Bahl, New Delhi.
2009 Entity by M.E.C. Art Gallery, IHC, New Delhi.
2009 Amalgamaion At Crowne Plaza, Gurgaon.
2009 Into The Light By Lantern of Art at IHC, New Delhi.
2009 Group Show at Art Pilgrim, Gurgaon.
2009 Sayam, Groupshow by Galley 5.
2010 DEVOTION, at Art positive.
2010 Art Mart – II at Epicentre, Gurgaon.
2010 ‘Leap’ by Gallery Joie at India Habitat Centre.
2011 ‘SKIN DEEP’ – The art of fiberglass at The Viewing Room, Mumbai.
2012 ‘Celebration’ at Kumar Art Gallery, Delhi.
2012 Mercedes Benz show by Dhoomimal.com.
2012 Resonance at Dhoomimal City Gallery, Gurgaon.
2012 Indian Icon at Art Pilgrim, Gurgaon.
2013 'Confluence des Arts' a group show of 100 artists at Gallery Artchill, Amber Fort , jaipur.
1989-91-93 State Award of Rajasthan Lalit Kala Academy, Jaipur.
1993 In Search of Talent Award conducted by M.F. Hussain, Vadhera Art Gallery, New Delhi.
1994 Ravi Jain Memorial Fellowship by Dhoomimal Art Gallery, New Delhi.
1997 “Outstanding Painting” Award by All India Biennial Rajasthan.
1991-95-98 All India Award by AIFACS, New Delhi.
1998 State Environment Award by Government of Rajasthan.
1996 Art camp in Kasuali, Shimla.
2002 Art camp in Udaipur.
2004 Art camps in New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia.
2006 Art camp in Switzerland.
2007 Art camps in Goa, Jaipur, Mysore, Thailand, Bhimtal.
2008 Art camps – Russia, Switzerland, Italy, Jaipur, Harkidoon.
2009 Art Camp at Udwada.
2009 Art Camps at Lakshwadeep/ Goa.
2009 All India Art Camp by Gallery Artchill , Jaipur.
2010 All India Art Camp by ICA.
2010 Art Camp at ITM, Gwalior.
2011 Art Camp at Bhimtal.
2011 Art Camp at Combodia.
2012 Art Camp at Ahmedabad.
2012 Art Camp at China.
WORKS IN COLLECTION
Glenbarra Art Museum, Japan. Wolgon University of Australia, Ambassador, Denmark, Singapore,
Mauritius, German Embassy, New Delhi, Sahitya Kala Parishad, College of Art, National Lalit Kala Academy, DLF, Taj Hotel, Maurya Sheraton, Hotel, Himachal Futuristic, Hero Cycles & Hero Honda, Daewoo, Apollo Tyres, Samsung, Punj Group, Birla Group, Jindal Group, Oasis Communications, U.P.S.C., State Bank of India, Eminent personalities in India, U.K., U.S.A, South Korea, Germany, Japan, Various private Collections in India & Abroad.
Between The Spiritual & The Material
Dharmendra Rathore’s recent series of works exist between the spiritual and the
material. By spiritual I don’t mean something supernatural and intangible, I mean
something very natural, yet intangible. Rathore’s early works offer the hallmark of
Indian spiritualism with a whiff of peace and tranquility. However the body of
works presented here are spiritual yet contemporary in its treatment as well as
subject. For example the artist speaks about the current fashion and fad where
people undergo cosmetic surgery or treatments to beautify the body, unlike the
puranic life where people meditate to purify the mind and soul. So in today’s life
we give more importance to the body which is mortal, a mere cover for our
Coming out of the traditional ethos the artist has meticulously experimented with
his art to communicate with the spectator, sometimes making comments, putting
questions or throwing message to the contemporary society through his visual
narratives. Rathore’s works are an amalgamation of various strands, styles and
influences without restricting himself to any fixed ideas or techniques. From the
tranquil Buddha imageries of his early paintings to the colourful montages of a
global culture, each transition has been carefully measured. For example in his
work ‘DNA is cool’ the artist has placed some satirical statements on the
contemporary life and technological developments. Rathore’s works are colourful,
joyous, chic, astute, and complex, and embodies the very temperament of our
traditional culture presenting them with a contemporary discourse to the viewers.
Rathore’s works has many layers, whether in terms of visual imagery, colours,
stories or its significance. Society always plays a very vital role in his work, for
instance his work titled ‘Dear Deer’ brings forth many issues from our society and
environment, on one hand it speaks of the extinction of the animal Deer, it also
brings forth the issue of falling male-female ratio. Another work ‘Pride2’ is on a
similar line, where the artist speaks about the condition of women in our society,
on one hand women are rising high, it speaks about their ambition and
contemporary life, concurrently it also highlights the social crime and violence of
our society on the womankind. Thus his works are multi-communicative, yet it
does not have the feature of being completely narrative. Using human figure as
an anchor his works demonstrate his brilliant use of colour, his subdued tone of
yellow, blue and white has been replaced by vibrant palette with elements of
In another work, ‘Kamdhenu’ the image of a cow has been used to represent our
society. On one hand it represents the divine cow ‘Kamdhenu’ from Hindu
mythology and on the other it’s the ‘Comdhenu’, the present dot.com formula of
cyber culture. Similar to the multiple mythological stories, Rathore interestingly
juxtaposes the current issues and ideas of our society, sometimes his inspirations
are from life and philosophy also. Through his work ‘A for Apple’ the artist relates
to the five elements of life in an inventive form, where apple is a sign of purity,
health, gravity, love and the first letter for alphabetical knowledge.
ThusRathore’s body of works is between the spiritual & the material, the body & the
soul, the individual & the society and the tradition & the modernity. His
inspirations are myriad; some of them are from philosophy, tradition, society,
environment, films and personal experiences. He renders the images in a stylized
manner with precision and a sense of veracity but they are within the realm. He
combines elements from his inspirations in a purely conceptual collage of
colourful imagery. Rathore depicts life with spontaneity and directness with a
whip of chic and satire.
Introducing an Elephant in the Room by JohnyML
In September 2009, I visited Dharmendra Rathore in his studio located near
Qutub Minar, South Delhi. Rathore had finished a set of new paintings,
which he termed as ‘the paintings of transition’. Those who have been
following this artist’s oeuvre seriously, this new suite of paintings might
offer a surprise as it was in my case during the visit. Once famous for his
‘spiritual paintings’ with an enlightened Buddha figure as the predominant
image, Rathore had made a recognizable stylistic shift in the beginning of
the new millennium. From, spiritual imagery he moved on to a semi abstract
style with serene colors and carefully articulated strokes. The last solo show
in 2007 heralded the flowering of his abstract phase. Then Rathore went into
a sort of hibernation, putting himself into very rigorous forms of meditation.
It was a period of research and study also.
Thoroughly figurative and strikingly imposing, the figures in the current set
of paintings and sculptures have a very contemporary visual appeal as their
metallic colors and metropolitan images show. However, what appealed to
me was the artist’s vigor in articulating certain pertinent issues haunt the
individual as a social being, especially when he/she is thrown in the midst of
the flooding information (and) technology. A particular image of an elephant
with its body collaged by a cacophony of images caught my attention and
immediately I read it out as a metaphor of a contemporary metropolitan
human being seeking deliverance through an expected violation of his body
and self. It reminded me of the mythological elephant in ‘Gajendra
Mokhsha’ (Deliverance of the Elephant King). He is caught by an alligator
during his frolicking in a pond and the act of violation sets his soul free and
he assumes his previous form as a god, who had been cursed to become an
The work is titled ‘Transit Lotus’. Indian mythologies say that Lotus is a
symbol of prosperity and spiritual blooming. The elephant king’s spiritual
blooming occurs through the act of violence on his body. The moment of
violation is a moment of transition too. It may be momentary, painful and
cathartic but its procedural nature cannot be overlooked. This moment of
violation is inscribed on the body and mind of each individual in the
contemporary society. This inscription must be happening through the
confrontations with history, encounters with small and large scale wars or
even the severely simplified, yet complicated domestic issues. Violence,
acted out on the individual body both in the public and private realms
become a redeeming act. Rathore addresses this contemporary reality by
calling his work ‘Transit Lotus’; here the man is in transit (transition through
pain) and he is about to be bloomed.
Rathore does not reveal any finality. Articulating the exact point of
redemption is not his job. Instead, he elaborates the transitory nature of
confronting history and its pain, through the introduction of the other
mythological element of the story; the alligator. The crocodile takes the form
of a sculptural installation. Rathore deliberately disrupts the narrative
linkages between the two images (of the elephant and the alligator) and
attributes the crocodile with a special individuality, emphasizing on the
cunningness of its agency (of violence) and the allure of its surface. The
crocodile throws out filings of light from its mouth as a sort of trap; the trap
that makes a diamond hunter out of each individual in a society. The charm
of violence is irresistible. One may replace the word violence with anything
that goes with a global culture.
Fables attract the infantile imaginations. But when retold in the newer
contexts they become more powerful than the mere moral stories. Taking the
forms of contemporary allegories and parables, these fables work within the
human psyche from a different angle. The animal imageries of Rathore’s
paintings and sculptures, though they are not picked up from the fables,
reconnect our imaginations with the ‘given visual feeds’ of a society.
Manipulated by the coded nature of the visuals around us, we tend to see
socio-political and religo-economic meanings out of simple animal
imageries. Rathore knows this fact for sure and also he knows that further
manipulation of such imageries would serve his purpose of extending a
There are images of cows, horses, goats, butterflies and deer in the visual
repertoire of Rathore. He forces them to shed off their innocence in his
works and inscribes their bodies with the collaged images culled out from
the contemporary society. These patterns and juxtaposed images function as
a fabric, a fabric that covers their original ‘nudity’. Once this fabric is on, the
animals cease to be the innocent animals. Even the cows, the most docile
animals in the domestic sphere become fierce imageries loaded with political
connotations. There is a permanent sense of loss in these animal imageries.
They are treated the way the kitsch makers treat them in the popular
calendars. This deliberation on the part of artist helps us to look at these
animals as political emblems, declaring their glory and the ability to spur up
violence in the social sphere.
The attribution of godhead to these animals, though Rathore keeps a serious
tone in most of his works, is tinged with a subtle humor. A closer look at
these animal imageries reveals that they are like actors who are destined to
carry the persona of something/someone else. They become just tools. They
become coat of arms and claims of ideological violence. But this condensed
violence is made appreciable by making them so alluring and enchanting.
Rathore suggests that this is the way how innocent imageries are loaded with
ideological connotations and distributed amongst the society through the
THE MILD TERROR
Rathore understands how the ideological terror is not just a figment of
imagination by certain individuals. According to Rathore, the ideological
terror is ingrained in every human being. It is almost dynastical. This comes
as an inheritance. In one of the paintings titled, ‘I Love My Dynasty’,
Rathore portrays himself in a yogic posture and above him one can see the
head of a deer stuffed and kept as a hunter’s trophy. Between the deer head
and the head of the artist’s portrait there is a suggestion of a butterfly whose
body is encrusted with diamonds and pearls.
Decoding this three tier imaging would be interesting. The yogic posture of
the artist connotes how the individual strives for self purification and
spiritual redemption. But at the same time, knowing one’s own familial and
cultural past, he understands that he cannot run away from the atrocities that
his family has inflicted on the society. There is a strong sense of self-critique
involved here. Hailing from a Rajput family, Rathore says that he cannot do
away with a violent past. The butterfly emblematizes the transition between
the violence and peace. So brittle a creature and so alluring its body, peace is
always covetable, though it is not always cherished and possessed.
Rathore makes a sociological interpretation of violence through this
painting. According to him, violence does not stem from one individual or a
group of individuals with deranged ideas. It comes from a past, which hailed
violence as a desirable tool. Now the deliverance can only take place, when
one decides to shed all his affiliation to such violent histories. It needs an
individual purgation, which could be sought both collectively and
Hell happens when man decides to make it. Originator and perpetrator of all
sins and crimes, man, for Rathore is the cause and effect of history. He
believes that it is man made and any disaster could be undone only through
his own deeds. Surrounded by the objects and events created by the
contemporary world, Rathore as a responsible individual and an artist with a
mission, tries to analyze the forces that work within man. Each man is
covered with a garb, which is both abstract and kitsch; which is full of
patterns and chaos.
Rathore looks around him and addresses each and every possible issue. He
believes that addressing the issues, instead of delaying the confrontation
with the truth, is important for cleansing the man out of all his sins and
making him conscious and aware of himself. It is not just a spiritual jargon
for him. It is very material and has to be addressed here and now.
In a painting titled ‘Beautiful Body’, Rathore portrays two men facing each
other, provoking and poking each other at the same time by sticking out their
tongues. Their ‘gay’ identity is clear from their posturing. There is a mutual
invitation and threatening at the same time. For the artist, their existence has
to be celebrated, though their presence is considered to be a threat to the
society by many people, including the State agencies. Rathore finds a way to
celebrate their identities by giving them the ‘garb’ of events in which we all
participate as contemporary individuals. There is a carnival of images on
them. They become almost glass grids that reflect all that we do in our secret
lives. They become the representation of our own selves in Rathore’s
paintings, whether we need to address ourselves as gay or straight.
In ‘4th Generation’, Rathore deliberately confuses the identity of the
individuals portrayed in it. There are three individuals who are more or less
androgynous in nature. However, their femininity is accentuated as the
‘fourth generation’ is suggested through a milking equipment and udders.
Rathore directly launches his critique on the ideology that considers women
as consumable objects or the objects of desire. Rathore attributes them with
autonomy as their bodies are invested with their own authority, dignity and
grace. Also in his ‘Madonna’ series, Rathore portrays the Madonnas from
the Renaissance period and then compare them with the singer Madonna in
one of the paintings. He does not deride the singer, nor does he praise the
Renaissance Madonna. He treats them with equal verve and traces a place
for them in his scheme of things.
As mentioned elsewhere in this essay, violence of our times manifested in
milder ways is one of the points of departure for Rathore. In his works,
Rathore considers two kinds of violence; one, that takes place in history and
public realms and two, that takes place in the private realms. With a shock
and surprise, the artist recognizes how the individuals become willing
victims of the latter kind of violence, when it shows the possibility of
enhancing their position in the social ladder. He takes up cosmetic surgery as
one metaphor, in which the individual allows himself/herself go under the
knife willingly. This violence, which is meant for positive results however,
is not without its wide reaching outcomes and ramifications.
Cosmetic surgery has become a fad of our times. A scientific invention,
which was originally meant for saving the human beings from life long
deformities, in due course of time has become a medium for the
multinational corporate houses that involve in the production of life style
products. Each product infuses the social individual with a desire to
consume it and the human body becomes the field of their reflected
consumption. The multinational corporates that set up the parameters for
human elegance and beauty coax people to yield to cosmetic surgeries in
order to become ‘beautiful’ people.
For Rathore, this violence is the metaphor of our times. We discard history.
We empty out our souls and just become bodies. And we allow any kind of
violence, provided they offer enhanced social status, to act upon our bodies.
In his work titled ‘Self Service’, Rathode captures this violence and the
resultant pathos of it quite strongly. What we see here is a young woman’s
body, which is almost hollowed out by various surgeries done on it to make
itself look ‘more’ beautiful. The resultant body is a horrible one that shows
the inner bone structure. Out there, one sees a laid out table but devoid of the
essential food items. Rathore aesthetically suggests how human beings are
deprived of their essential means in the name of beauty enhancement.
CACOPHONY OF NATION HEADS
If cosmetic industry is one of the mediums that dehumanize the individual,
there are other mediums through which the human life is made miserable by
the vested interests. Environmental depletion and the human agency
involved in it take an important place in Rathore’s aesthetic discourse. In his
ambitious sculptural installation with two hundred and three severed goatheads
casted in fiber glass Rathore captures how the heads of nations all
over the world make hollow statements for saving the planet.
Two hundred and three goat-heads represent the same number of nations.
The heads of these nations come around annually to discuss the issues of
environmental depletion. They speak a lot about saving the planet. And at
the same time, surreptitiously they implement programs that accelerate the
pace of environmental degradation. These goat heads simultaneously
represent the mass murder of flora and fauna due to such nefarious programs
and the hollowness of the world leaders who just make speeches in the
international forums. Each of this goat head has the national flag of each
country tattooed on it. Rathore uses his black humor through the portrayal of
mass murder and the speeches against it using the totally unthreatening
images of goat heads.
The same kind of humor bubbles forth in the other sculptural works too. The
five torsos, with five different colors, the contorted torso with digital circuits
for its nervous system and the genuflecting man with ‘BT Brinjal’s’ violet
sheen etc. contain the dark humor of Rathore. The social gestures of
supremacy, rebellion and obedience are represented in the posturing of these
torsos. Even the most defiant posture would evoke a feeling of sympathy for
the poser, amongst the viewers. Rathore intents it deliberately as he forwards
his critique not only against the hegemonic agencies but also against the
‘individuals’ who become conscious sub-agencies of such forces through
mindless replication of ideas.
Rathore’s world however, is not dark and pessimistic. Though he has
stylistically moved away from the ‘spiritual’ paintings with Buddha as the
predominant image, at times he makes a re-visit to those images. In the
monumental sculpture of Buddha in this exhibition, he emphasizes his
personal belief in peace and harmony. But here the Buddha is not only
monumental but also very ‘contemporary’. With its outer layer painted with
metallic color, the Buddha looks like a very appealing icon. Rathore’s
suggestion is palpable here as he wants the viewer to see this Buddha not
just as the Buddha of the stories but the Buddha of our times.
In a painting titled ‘Covered Uncovered’, Rathore makes use of the Buddha
imagery in a more personal way. Here you see a serene man in a yogic
posture but with eyes wide open to the world. While the internal calmness of
the man emanates through his physical posture and facial expression, he is
not closed to the world. He is alert to receive the world into him. The lotus
metaphor once again becomes pertinent at this juncture; it stands in the mud
but is never touched by its dirt. The man, the protagonist, the surrogate self
of the artist, is like a lotus; he is at once in and out of it. He keeps a
philosophical distance from the social happenings and even while critiquing
it, he seeks his ultimate deliverance. As an artist he realizes the issues, but he
is not the ultimate redeemer. Through his self-act, he shows the possibility
of deliverance, from violence and from sufferings.
I have been interacting with Rathore ever since I met him (officially) at his
studio in 2009. Several changes in his working pattern occurred during this
time. As an artist who is conscious of the technological innovations of our
times, Rathore has looked out for the possibilities of incorporating
technology into his work. It is not just for the sake of technological
incorporations. In one of the conversations he revealed to me that how he
would like to have sounds and chanting coming out the sculptures, including
the monumental Buddha, as per the body heat of the viewer in their vicinity.
At that point he wanted to involve technicians in his works.
It is not just technology, but the history of the changes facilitated by
technological innovations inspires Rathore to his sculptures and paintings.
He is like the historical angel who is caught in the history of changes. He
looks back at the past and draws energy to proceed in the present. The wind
of future is blowing fast and it is very difficult to hold one’s position.
Rathore withstands the pressure of his times. He responds to all the possible
issues and wishes that he could initiate a change as an artist. This positive
thought behind these works is self evident. Rathore is a contemporary artist,
who just has not left history behind for the sake making art without history.
And such artists are very few in our scene.
Written by JohnyML