During his nearly four-decade-long career, Astad Deboo has earned himself the distinction of being a performance artiste continuously looking to push the envelope. He has done that in the past, often by collaborating with other artists. For instance, the veteran performed with Pink Floyd in 1969 and also collaborated with puppeteer Dadi Pudumjee in 1989.
However, for a long time Deboo has been keen to work with an artist from India, to create a collaborative dance performance that will be showcased in an art gallery space alongside paintings. But none of the exhibitions or artists proved congenial with his style of work. That until he came across Mohan Samant’s work at Jehangir Nicholson Gallery, Kala Ghoda.
“I’m usually careful when I’m interacting with another artist’s work. But when I saw Samant’s work and read his notes, I realised how similar our thought processes were,” Deboo says. Samant experiments extensively with style, technique and colour and is unaware of what form his painting will take until nearly 70 per cent of the artwork is complete. “As with Samant, most of my ideas come spontaneously, while I’m working out or just listening to music. I don’t begin with one specific thought. Instead, I focus on movement and form and slowly the performance is born,” explains the Padma Shri recipient. “Also Samant’s work reflects angst, which is a recurring theme in my work as well,” adds Deboo.
Based on this connection he feels with the artist, Deboo will present a contemporary dance performance around the ongoing exhibition, “Mohan Samant: Paintings”. Titled Dancing with Angels, it will be the exhibition’s concluding event on January 24.
The performance by Deboo, a trained Kathak dancer who later studied at the famed London School of Contemporary Dance, will be in sync with the exhibition, a retrospective of Samant’s works. The common thread running between the two will be their working style and the spirit of experimentation. So, Deboo will use the space for “an interactive performance as the audience will move along around the gallery”. “I use the triangular stand, where Mohan’s paintings are on display, as a prop for one performance that is specially choreographed for this show. The other two pieces existed in my repertoire, but lent beautifully to this work as well,” he explains.
Deboo’s 45-minute performance is based on the spirit of Samant’s work, he explains. “It is a resonance of his style of experimentation in his work and of spontaneity. I hope to consider the relationship of these two visual forms and see how they enrich each other,” he says.