HEAD OF A BULL
HEAD OF A BULL
Length of base 16 3/4 in. (42.8 cm.), width of base 13 in. (33 cm.)
Tyeb Mehta Ideas Images Exchanges, New Delhi, 2005, pp. 299-300, illustrated (two views).
Yashodhara Dalmia, Tyeb Mehta: Triumph of Vision, exhibition catalogue, Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi, 2011, p. 99, illustrated.
Throughout Tyeb Mehta's career, the artist has been consistently inspired by the iconography of the bull. From the earliest renditions of a trussed bull in his drawings of the 1950s, to the more metaphorical compositions of his famed Mahishasura series in the 1990s, and the final minimalist diptych of his career, the bull has remained central. Growing up in Mumbai, Mehta experienced the riots of Partition, whose horrors haunted his imagination, and his early art can be seen as an outpouring of his emotional demons. The communal clashes instilled a desire in him to locate new forms to visualise the violence he had witnessed. Mehta recalls looking for an image to express his inner anguish, which he found in the British Museum in the form of a trussed bull on an Egyptian vase, which became a recurring element in his works. By depicting the bull, often considered to be a symbol of masculinity, power, and dominance, in powerless and vulnerable conditions, the artist creates a duality of contrary juxtapositions in order to suggest the violence and suffering experienced by the animal.
The central protagonists of Mehta's art are symbols that the artist has carefully selected and then explored over long periods of time '... images which haunted him, burning themselves deep into his mental circuitry ... these obsessional images, autobiographical in import, gradually gained significance as Tyeb externalised them, reflecting on them, and allowed them to shimmer against the wider canvas of society.' (Ranjit Hoskote, Tyeb Mehta, Images and Exchanges, New Delhi, 2005, p. 14)
In the current work from 1998, we encounter the bull once more, but now cast in bronze. In the sculpture, the artist has chosen to depict only the head of the beast, dislocated from the body. But are we witness to the butchered head of a bull on the abattoir floor? Or the magnificent struggle and impending destruction of the Buffalo demon from Hindu myth? Like the dissecting shafts of colour in his famous diagonal series, the metal plate on which the sculpture rests suggests an intentional dislocation or dismemberment, but as is often the case with Tyeb's work, the composition remains ambiguous as to its intent.
In 1970, Mehta made a brief return to his former career as a filmmaker, directing the award-winning film, Koodal. The film is filled with disjointed yet powerful imagery, none more so than a scene of a slaughtered bull. The angle of the bull's head in the film still, as the animal collapses to the floor, is a clear precursor to the sculpted form in the current lot. Mehta explained the bull's significance, stating, 'There was a municipality place at Kennedy Bridge [...] where these cows and buffaloes used to be caught and brought. I used to go and sketch there. Then from there I moved to the slaughterhouse at Bandra near Masjid. Actually I shot three minutes of my film there. Those three minutes are the most poignant sequence in my film. It's an image which is very near to my mental make-up. The bull is a powerful animal and when its legs are tied and its thrown down, it's an assault on life itself.' (In conversation with Yashodhara Dalmia in 1989, reprinted in Yashodhara Dalmia, 'Metamorphosis: From Mammal to Man', Tyeb Mehta: Triumph of Vision, exhibition catalogue, Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi, 2011, p. 7)
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About The Artist:
TYEB MEHTA (1925-2009)