With few hours left to the inaugural of his show at National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA),artist Atul Dodiya is not one to sit still. His mind is never at rest,a state he revels in and also what makes him one of the most engaging artists of our time.
At NGMA,this spontaneity comes alive. There are works which never entered a gallery. These are from the early 80s when a JJ School of Art student Dodiya drew portraits of artists such as Paul Klee. From the Gallows series,his experiments with minimalistic sculptures,to his Shutter series,a recurring motif ever since it was commissioned in 2001 by Tate Modern,the exhibition is the first major survey of Dodiyas art spanning over 30 years. With curator Ranjit Hoskote,they bring together 130 works in a show titled Experiments with Truth: Atul Dodiya,Works 1981-2013. Many of these have never been exhibited in Delhi.
The title of the exhibition hints not only at his preoccupation with the artist of non-violence,Mahatma Gandhi,who has been a point of reference in several of his works,but also the realism that pervades his subjects. Brought together in nine months,Dodiya felt it was too short a time to call it a retrospective,hence,a survey. We have some representation from each phase,from the early realism of 80s to 91-92,when I was away in Paris after which there was a dramatic shift in my work, says Dodiya. Be it large-scale or small-scale,watercolour,text-based,oil paintings or Bollywood and popular culture,Dodiyas extensive oeuvre is rendered microcosmic in the exhibition. I didnt want it to be too crowded. Yet,I cant have a minimalistic display. I have to have it big, he says.
The exhibition also comprises a new series titled Painted Photographs/Paintings Photographed,a result of thoughts and ideas that hounded Dodiya for over 10 years. It juxtaposes his fascination for European art history and Gandhian freedom struggle on the same canvas. Dodiya has painted popular black-and-white images from 1910 to 1948,and put them side-by-side with photographs of paintings by artists such as Picasso,Matisse and Rousseau. When I was visiting Europe,I took these photographs in the museums and put them together with the paintings as a diptych. The oil paintings are very close to the photographs,this is where realism comes, says Dodiya,of the 30 works from the series.
Yet another first is his three paintings of artist friend Bhupen Khakhar,done in oil,and made from photographs he had taken 24 years ago. This year was the 10th death anniversary of Bhupen. I had taken these photographs when we were together at a writers workshop in Khandala, says Dodiya,More importantly,I also want to focus on the technique of oil paintings. I feel that great painting is not happening the way it used to in the 50s,with masters such as Raza,Souza,Gaitonde,and Padamsee,or even much later with Bhupen Khakhar,Geeta Singh and Jogen Chowdhury.
Ever on the move,he looks forward to the the book Atul Dodiya. This volume of his works edited by Hoskote in collaboration with Vadehra Art Gallery will be launched in January next year. Dodiya is also working on water colours for a solo show in Hong Kong,as well as a project at Mumbais Bhau Daji Lad Museum.
The exhibition is on at NGMA till December 29. Contact: 23384640