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Artist Profile1
Anju Dodiya’s passionate play on the self- portrait
The self is often at the center of Anju Dodiya’s works, exploring various possibilities within it. Her practice is rooted in the figurative. All elements in it are charged with an intense emotional value.

Not surprisingly, her latest body of work ‘Necklace of Echoes’ was also a suite of self-portraits. Seeking to unravel the series, cast in the mode of intense suffering, writer Nancy Adajania mentioned: “Beneath the intricate paraphernalia of art-historical and autobiographical citations associated with her work, the artist reflects selfhood wounded, and selfhood armored against hurt in all her paintings.

“In her latest series, Anju Dodiya keeps her citationality to a minimum, allowing the true theme of her work to emerge - the artist's subjectivity, trapped by its own constructs, aching for release.” According to the art critic, her various self-projections, far from being a garland of disconnected and whimsical pictorial quotations phrased across the years can be seen to express strong psychological continuities.

Anju Dodiya did her B.F.A. from Sir J.J. School of Art. She has widely exhibited her work in India and internationally, including 'All Night I Shall Gallop', Bodhi Art, Singapore, Mumbai, New York and Singapore Tyler Print Institute (STPI, 2008); ‘The Throne of Frost’, Bodhi, Mumbai (2007); and ‘The Throne of Frost’, Baroda (2007); Bose Pacia, NY (2006). Among her selected group exhibitions are 'India: Take Three', Kings Road Gallery, Chelsea (2009); 'Progressive to Altermodern', Grosvenor Gallery, London (2009); ‘Everywhere Is War (and Rumors of War)’, Bodhi, Mumbai (2008); 'Modern & Contemporary Indian Art', Vadehra Art Gallery, Delhi (2008); 'Of Personal Narratives And Journeys', Bodhi, Gurgaon (2009); and ‘Here and Now: Young Voices from India’, Grosvenor Vadehra, London (2007) among other shows.

Anju Dodiya also formed part of the ambitious ‘India Xianzai’ (India Now) show at Museum of Contemporary Art Shanghai (MoCA), Shanghai last year. The artist also showcased her multimedia triptych ‘Seasons’ at the Venice Biennale. It was created during a printmaking residency at STPI. This suite of 25 mixed media works looked to push the definition of printmaking as a medium. For it she integrated extant images and created three-dimensionality with her usage of mirrors, beads and threads. Simultaneously, this process stretched her oeuvre as evident in the labyrinthine layers of meaning, co-existing in each of the works.

Deliberating in detail on her ‘sometimes whimsical play on the self- portrait’, an essay in The International Herald Tribune, has noted: “Originally a collage artist, Anju Dodiya hoards faces, particularly those in states of extreme emotion. A box of clippings in her bookshelf includes news photographs of mourners, bombing victims etc. She also confesses to staring at faces on Mumbai's commuter trains, a boon for any artist in pursuit of extreme expression.

“Marriage aside, you find little mutual influence in the works of Atul and Anju Dodiya. He welcomes the sensory bombardment of his country; she is a dedicated student of the interior. It began for her as a nightly exercise, standing before a mirror and drawing self-portraits in her sketchbook, one after the other. Why not assimilate these into your paintings, her husband once suggested. She did - she had been foraging for a subject to paint - and the experiment led to the self-referential oeuvre that (the then) Christie's auction catalog called her fictive alter egos."

Her keenness to experiment and challenge the conventional was evident in her site-specific installation at the Laxmi Vilas Palace, Vadodora. In her lavish ‘Throne of Frost’, minimalist charcoal and watercolors contrasted with the usage of richly textured fabric, succinctly capturing the opposing forces of power and destruction, wealth and decay. The palace inspired her images like a woman weighed down by an embellished box and a lonesome king.

The exhibition was significant for its absence of self-portraits that recur in Anju Dodiya’s work. According to her, she employs the self-images as a pure device, but that doesn’t really mean the stories they narrate have anything to do with her (personally).“It’s more of an artistic device than a confessional technique. In my works, my look-alikes enact roles in narratives that are often an allegory of the creative process,” she sums up.