Theatre of A Mind

Anju Dodiya’s first solo in Mumbai in four years is a “choreographed studio-drama” of an artist’s madness.

Written by Sankhayan Ghosh | Published: September 25, 2012 2:48 am

Anju Dodiya’s first solo in Mumbai in four years is a “choreographed studio-drama” of an artist’s madness.

Madness,you see,is like gravity,all it takes is a little push” — the slightly paraphrased quote from The Dark Knight is tagged along the title card of Anju Dodiya’s exhibition “Room for Erasures” at Chemould Prescott Road gallery. This “madness” is the theme of her latest work,if there is one single theme at all. And the subject,as it has been with most of her work,revolves around her fictional self. “I am very extreme and obsessive while striving after a certain image,and here I’ve tried to showcase that hysterical madness in an artist who is caught in the process,” she says.

With “Room for Erasures”,her first solo exhibition in India in four years,Dodiya returns to Chemould Prescott where she had her first exhibition in 1991. Dodiya,a two-time Sotheby’s Prize-nominated artist who lives and works in Mumbai,held her last solo,“Making World”,in Venice in 2009. Her latest opens today and is on till October 24. A series of paintings,photographic suites and three drawings make up this artistic hysteria.

Her characteristic feature has been exploring the inner self,and this exhibition is,in many ways,an extension of the same. Only here,the artist’s inner journey has been given a slightly distant view,to make it more self-introspective. Hence,they are more theatrical,resembling pantomimes that enable the image to be seen from a distance. While the theatrical style of her works,she says,draws from a number of sources,from the esoteric to the textual,she also draws inspiration from sports photographs and 19th Century Japanese Ukiyo-e woodblock prints. “The Samurai figures and the athletes manifest extreme emotive gestures; it’s more visceral and perhaps embodies the heightened emotions of an artist’s mind,” says the 48-year old,who graduated from the JJ School of Art,Mumbai,in 1986.

However,the show does not revolve around an artist’s lunacy alone. According to Dodiya,a single-minded,ritual-like rigour,acts as a foil to the hysteria. “It is a spiritual quest. It is also hysterical,” explains her two-fold phenomenon. Her works,she says,show a narrow view of the world,mostly restricted to a limited space,but create an effect far greater. “A character in one of the paintings has an accordion as a head. Now,accordions work in enclosed,limited space but create great music; by my work too,I try to say more with little,” she says.

The gallery also showcases a series of photographs encased in glass frames. The watercolour specialist makes extensive use of stains here. The digital images are disfigured with stains,which gives form to an abstract design. “The stains indicate the idea of time passing by,and creating memories on its way,” she says. But Dodiya introspects here too,by attaching the photographs to a bigger frame,thus giving them a larger context.

The title gets its literal justification in a series of three drawings,intricately sketched abstracts that have been made only to be erased. It’s her whimsical fancy,where she wishes to engage in a psychological game with the viewer,who would have to climb up on an altar to reach the level of the drawing,and erase in whichever way he wants.

“I am setting myself in a very vulnerable position; my work is done with great care and detail,” she says. “At the same time,it’s full of surprises — collaborative and complex. For example,the canvas won’t go back to the same even if the sketches are erased and there will be remnants of grey,” she says.

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