About the Artist

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Born  1966  Rajasthan (Salari).


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 eternal soul. 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 collage.

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 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 elephant.



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 social critique. There are images of cows, horses, goats, butterflies and deer in the visualrepertoire 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 vested interests.



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 individually.



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.



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
New Delhi





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

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.




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.