Experiments with Truth- and Bureaucracy Too- Atul Dodiya’s Retrospective and a Few Thoughts
|( Artist Atul Dodiya)|
‘Experiments with Truth’- Atul Dodiya Retrospective 1981-2013 is a retrospective exhibition at the National Gallery of Modern Art that Delhi should be proud of. In 2012 January, Ram Kinkar Baij Retrospective had created ripples in the otherwise still Delhi’s art pool. Opened on 15th November 2013, this show gives a comprehensive picture of Atul Dodiya’s creative life. This editorial however, is not an attempt to review this retrospective exhibition.
Each time I visit the NGMA, a prayer to the cultural gods escapes my lips. I pray, ‘Save me from criticising the general functioning of the National Gallery of Modern Art. Let this time things be perfect so that my negative faculties remain dormant. Oh the god of cultural things, save me from the sin of being the one who is persistent in seeing the faults than facilities.’ During Sooni Taraporewala’s show, two months ago, apart from the works and the film screenings my attention had wandered to the locked up washrooms. When I raised the issue in public, in the presence of the artist, a few officials had run behind me, after the program, to apologize and say that it was a technical fault. But my question is, when someone is desperate to use the washroom, one cannot cite ‘bureaucratic’ faults as a reason.
This time, as I was too impressed by the Atul Dodiya Retrospective, I decided to buy a catalogue which is priced at Rs.600/- (if I use Dodiya’s quirky witticism, it is equal to $10, six and a half kilos of onion, 8.32 litres of Petrol in Delhi therefore affordable to a person like me). A white notice boldly announces that catalogue and a portfolio of Dodiya’s works (Rs.200) available, both at the exhibition hall and at the ‘museum shop’. I went to the shop and nobody was there. So I went to the gallery again, where a very polite young guard informed me that portfolio was available in the gallery but the catalogues were with the shop. He even gave me the names of two people who are in charge of the shop.
The shop was empty. I went to the ticket counter and the girl there informed me that it was ‘lunch time’. I have been to so many museums in the world but nowhere you hear this quintessentially Indian argument, ‘It is lunch time’ (I hear an inaudible ‘baby’ at the end as in an advertisement jingle). So I tried to reason with the girl at the counter. This is a museum and there cannot be any lunch time. Once I again I went to the shop and this time my aim was to steal something from there just to test someone would catch me or not. Before I could put my plan into practice the girl at the ticket counter told me something which I found quite reasonable: “The catalogues are sold out.” Instead of feeling lost I felt good. It is good to hear that people have bought the catalogue out. But at the same time I remain realistic at this front as I know that generally limited number of copies reach the gallery on the opening day and the rest will be delivered after the opening. I can also convince myself that during the hectic Diwali session it is literally impossible to get the printers deliver the ordered copies. Fine.
Atul Dodiya’s retrospective is a wonderful show and I insist that every Delhi citizen should see it. But a streak of thought appears in my mind. Immediately after spending considerable amount of time at the NGMA, where I had the opportunity to meet the artist and his wife (Anju Dodiya) and congratulate him for having this retrospective, I went to the National Rail Museum where a Rail Mela is on. Don’t worry, it is not like a second hand car mela where you could choose your second hand cars (politely referred as pre-owned cars), it is not like a loan mela either as you cannot take a loan to buy one of those historical locomotives for fun or prestige. This mela is a just a mela with the permanent display of the locomotives stately in place but with a magic show, a stilt walker, puppet show, bioscope, clowns and a food court thrown in between.
The Rail museum is jam packed. The ever aspiring middle class has come to attend the mela full in force. I parked my car almost half a kilometre away from the venue, right in front of the Thai Embassy. Fifty rupees for an adult and free for children. In our country, where one or two children per couple is an already an accepted norm, it is a good bargain. It is almost like unlimited buffet. They over charge you and ask to eat as much as you can. One has to risk one’s stomach to do justice to the amount one has paid there. Here at the Rail Museum, people bring their kids and spend a lot of time wondering at the old giant locomotives. Wondering has a new meaning here; the more you wonder and admire something the more number of photographs you take in front of it. The whole idea of looking at something as an image has become the actual enjoyment; virtual, which is a step removed from the real or one step into the real is more palatable than the touchy, smelly actual stuff.
The Rail Mela, in fact does not offer anything particular other than a few moments of affected enjoyment (one has to ‘have fun’ as one is in a ‘fun’ place). But it is a pure business tactics; you say it is a Mela, people come; you say that there is a painting competition, people come with their kids. But when it is a mainstream cultural museum like the NGMA, people do not come. Things have been slowly changing as during Sundays you see a lot of people with kids walking in. But it is too slow a change and the people who come to the gallery are seen within the ‘culture’ bracket. They are not like the people who go to Rail Mela or Dilli Haat. There is a clear divide between society and culture, or to be precise, there is a clear divide between the ‘social’ and the ‘cultural’.
Culture or cultural activities that are the constituents of a social or societal whole or society or social as the manifested cultural constituents stands absolutely disconnected with the people who actually hold the values of both ‘social’ and ‘cultural’. Atul Dodiya’s works are not disjointed individual mental entities like the modern abstract works which people generally find difficult to connect. His works are loaded with the references from everyday, history, cultural history and even national history. They are snide, petty, sarcastic, cynical and even ruthlessly critical often. The intellectual fervour that Dodiya shows in his works could easily find resonance with the not yet brain dead middle class. But the middle class that throngs at the Rail Mela keeps itself away from such exhibitions. Why?
If we throw in a few programs like film shows, magic, children’s painting competition, essay writing competition, animation workshops, walk the talk with the artist and so on will people visit the NGMA with their kids? What about a food court? It is high time to think. The NGMA has a history of inviting political dignitaries like Sonia Gandhi for the opening so that the premises are changed into a high security fortress which keeps the people away from the exhibition completely. Now things are slowly changing. I remember an anecdote when late Pradosh Dasgupta was the Director-Chairman of the NGMA; once the then Prime Minister, late Indira Gandhi visited the premises. Somebody ran to him and said that Mrs.Gandhi was there. The answer was, ‘So what?’ I heard that he had to pay the price with his post. Today, even if some political big wigs pass by the India Gate round about, the NGMA authorities stand in attention. This should change. The NGMA should become a people friendly place.
At this juncture, I also wonder (while I appreciate Atul Dodiya’s retrospective) why there are no retrospectives planned or executed of our stalwarts like V.S.Gaitonde, Akbar Padamsee, J.Swaminathan, K.C.S.Panicker, Kanai Kunchiraman, Prabhakar Kolte, Sudhir Patwardhan, Manjit Bawa and many others? Why there are no exciting programs at the NGMA, which would drag the reluctant critics like me to its premises? What happened to the research library of the NGMA which the students of the art colleges once used to call ‘NAGMA’ library fondly? What happened to the other collections of the NGMA? Why the NGMA is not acquiring works of the contemporaries for the last few years? Why there are no open policies regarding public-private participation in the NGMA programs? Why should the NGMA do its programs and acknowledge the private participation as if it were an apology (as in the case of Ketaki Sheth and Photo Ink, and Atul Dodiya and the Vadehra Gallery. In fact we are proud of our private agencies coming to do interesting projects in the NGMA as we have seen in the case of the SKODA Prize show 2013)? We need to address these issues.
A few more suggestions:
- Atul Dodiya Retrospective should travel in all the cities including Jaipur, Bhopal, Chennai and Kochi/Trivandrum. Also we need to remember that the Ram Kinkar Baij retrospective did not travel to Kolkata. What a shame.
- Young artists should learn from Atul Dodiya that an artist’s oeuvre is not based on projects and proposal writings. His/her works done diligently with a sense of commitment and fun prove it. Atul Dodiya is an example to learn from.
- There should be a cafe or restaurant at the NGMA. People come, see the show and there is no place/space to spend a few more minutes in the campus. Veteran art expert, theatre director, connoisseur, art collector and the biggest archivist, Mr.Ibrahim Alkazi was seen on a wheel chair in the middle of the campus with his daughter and caretakers feeding him, right under the open sky. I wish there was a cafeteria not only for senior citizens but also for the youngsters.
- A total revamping is needed in the whole design of the landscape of the NGMA premises.
- Lunch Break attitude should be abolished.
Once again, this is not a review of Atul Dodiya’s retrospective. I would do one when I have a catalogue in my hand.
|( Work by Aziz)|
Taj Deccan Hotel, Hyderabad presents a solo show of artworks by talented artist Aziz.The artist has presented his contemporary art through his creativity and colours.
He is renowned for his unique style and technique and specializes in a style of relief art, using Plaster of Paris, and oil painting. He has pioneered the use of a unique, masterly techniques of creating 'three dimensional reliefs' on canvas.
A combination of color, depth and granularity define this particular genre. Aziz's works involves the usage of media like watercolors, oils and charcoals and has a unique appeal with great amount of detail in them.
The show is on view till 8th December 2013.
India Art Fair 2014
India Art Fair, India’s premier modern and contemporary art fair, announced its 6th edition taking place from 30th January to the 2nd February 2014, with a VIP preview by invitation on 30th January 2014.
Since its founding in 2008, India Art Fair has grown to be an epicenter for art in India, with a global reputation for being one of South Asia’s leading art fairs. Showcasing 91 booths from India and across the world, the 6th edition of the India Art Fair will be a key impetus within the commercial art world, exposing local and international artists to a large and diverse audience. With an exciting public programme which includes Art Projects, a Speakers’ Forum and a city wide Collateral Events schedule, the India Art Fair continues to be a highlight of India’s busy cultural season.
Artists like Dayanita Singh, Jose Garcia Miguel, Nirav Modi, Word.Sound.Power by Khoj International Artists Association, Raqs Media Collective with 20 leading international and Indian artists, along with speakers at the Speaker’s Forum likeBudi Tek, Chris Dercon, Philip Dodd, Homi Bhabha, Bharti Kher, Li Bing among many others will be presenting at the fair.
A canopy of elements
|(work by Priti Samyuktha)|
Marriott Hotel Convention Centre, Hyderabad presents a solo show of art works by artist
Priti Samyuktha. The artist presents a collection of artworks with the spread of vibrant colours on the canvas.
The artist was born in 1977 and holds the degree of BFA and MFA in painting. Currently she teaches at Jawaharlal Nehru Architecture and Fine Arts University. She has exhibited her works at various solo and group shows. The artist takes her life in a positive manner and this reflects in her artworks. She has been awarded with the ‘Hyderabad Art Society Award’ in the year 2003 and 2009.
Christie’s auction Gandhy collection
|( Work by V S Gaitonde at the Auction)|
Christie’s, first auction in India, presents works from the personal exquisite collection of the late Kekoo and Khorshed Gandhy, Mumbai-based gallerists and among the most significant figures in the development of India’s modern art scene, which will be the centerpiece of the auction.
Artists represented from their collection include V.S. Gaitonde, Ram Kumar, S. H. Raza, Tyeb Mehta, M.F. Husain and Jamini Roy. The sale will be held at The Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai on Thursday, 19th December 2013.
The auction exhibition previews at The Taj Mahal Hotel in New Delhi from 7th - 9th December 2013.
( News Reports by Sushma Sabnis)