The Tiger and the Goat 

The game is Bagh-Chal. 

It is played along a five-point grid, connected by horizontal, vertical and diagonal lines. The tiger sits on one side. The goat on the other. The tiger places his four pieces on the board to attack the goat. With twenty pieces, the goat blocks the tiger's advances. The goat, the seeming loser of the game has the advantage of numbers. He can block an attack, and outwit the lion into losing the game. Some of his coteries might be sacrificed in the process. 

In Bagh Bakri, a sculptural installation by Rajesh Kumar Sharma, the artist uses a simple game often played in parts of rural India as a way to consider a cultural conundrum. The work is made up of a large gateway, created by two columns standing on plinths, connected by a large beam. Coconuts hang from the beam in a large bunch, begging to be plucked. A small bench protrudes on one side of the structure where the grid formation for the game has been carefully etched. Viewers are invited to sit across each other and play.  

Sharma's monument considers the questions about past and present, and complex way in which we remember history. While on one hand pulled by a nostalgic urge to preserve history in an unchanging vaccum, the surfaces of monuments serve as an archive of their own, recording stories that are often untold. Sharma's work ponders how a monument can live two different lives, one for people and one for history. A ruin, a stand-alone structure, it is a dialogue between those who envisioned it and those who inherit it. 

One of the most beguiling aspects of Sharma's work is his concentration on the games that children play. Whether seen in travel magazines or images for an “Incredible India”, the faces of laughing children are constructed as a reflection of a value system and of its erosion. In Aaja Aaja Aaja, one child helps another climb atop a large bull, while Twenty Twenty shows a group of young boys riding on bull-back to partake in a little cricket, India's favorite pastime. Sharma shows us that while romantic visions of rural India still persist, they are slowly shifting and making way for a newly branded and freshly imported idea of urban living. 

“Indian Cola and Other Stories,” Sharma's solo exhibition of sculptural works in bronze, brass and other mediums at Gallerie Nvya, tells multiple tales of modern India, and the way its history is constantly shifting into its present realities.


-excerpted from catalogue essay by Avni Doshi




























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