Online Magazine
 
Artist Profile2
Treating each other as trustworthy viewers, patrons and staunch critics
Conscious of history and its moorings, Atul Dodiya’s rich oeuvre sharply reflects his deep knowledge about past and the present - immediate surroundings, the turn of events and relevance of ancient religious traditions. His vivacious albeit impactful visual commentaries on what vexes his home country incorporate all the ubiquities that can be easily found around. A widely acknowledged leader of his generation of artists, he tends not to be attached to any signature style, a specific medium, or a singular cultural reference.

The artist often quotes from the recesses of both Indian and Western art traditions. The history and culture of his home country plays a significant role in constructing the barrage of images that inform his oeuvre. A multitude of references populate the works, pointing to their vast preoccupations that encompass a whole range of issues. His canvases embrace issues ranging from exuberant Indian economy to the garish kitsch and disturbing disquiet of daily life. Driven by intellect, intensity and ideas, he continues to experiment with many forms. His striking imagery has invariably been packed with a stirring swirl of motifs: Bollywood, film stars, political icons, Hindu mythology characters, and so on.

Atul Dodiya’s practice alludes to everything - from the eccentric everyday India to high art elements from all over. Launching his career with a rather straightforward and cleverly deadpan realist approach, he switched to the fragmented and multi-layered approach from the literal one in the mid-90s. Part of his potent pictorial language can be attributed to his to adoption and usage of the vocabulary of Western contemporary art. Edward Hopper and Jasper Johns, Mondrian and Robert Rauschenberg have been among his earliest artistic influences. Deeply touched by Mahatma Gandhi’s teachings and conscious of historical perspectives, he tries to re-contextualize his message through his paintings.

Indian cataclysms have shaped his work and so the explicitly political concerns without, descending into social realism, as an essay in International Herald Tribune mentions, turning the spotlight on his wife, Anju Dodiya, whose ‘quiet, sometimes whimsical play on the self- portrait seems to eschew the noise of the city’. Tracing their journey, The International Herald Tribune writer Somini Sengupta, had mentioned: “The couple, who met in art school here 20 years ago, are among a generation of contemporary Indian artists who chronicle the gestalt of an India on the boil, offering both mirror and commentary on issues ranging from its exuberant economy to the kitsch and disquiet of its daily life. If she burrows into the private, Atul Dodiya questions the blurred line between public and private. The shutter paintings are sometimes deeply private on the outside, loud and boisterous on the inside.”

Anju Dodiya is an accomplished watercolorist, who likes to describe her art as originating from ‘an intense inner world, often celebrating the tragic.” It tends to follow a sort of prescribed practice. The self is often at the center of her practice that looks to explore various possibilities within it. Her references emanate from the realms of literature, cinema, fashion, and so on, but invariably with a marked tinge of self reference. She is also influenced by Persian and Indian miniatures, European tapestries from the Middle Ages, Renaissance Art, Classical Chinese and Japanese Painting, and different modern and contemporary artists, such as Antonin Artaud, Robert Rauschenberg and Francesco Clemente. Rather than creating pastiches with images and ideas from all these sources, she uses them, as well as stories from different literary and mythological narratives, and, of course, her own fantasies, to explore issues of identity and self-examination.

Her practice, rooted in the figurative and immersed in Oriental traditions, incorporates images as a vehicle of storytelling. Figures tend to appear in isolation or besides a few props. Ground is only indicated by the weight implied in the exaggerated folds of the voluminous garments worn by the characters, and also by possible distortions of perspective. Figures are depicted in exaggerated movements and their balance is unstable, being always in motion. They are also very expressive, suggesting a diverse range of feelings. When they wear masks, her characters underline ideas of role playing, narrative and intention beyond aesthetic accomplishment. Her artist’s keenness to experiment and challenge the conventional was evident in a superb 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.”

On the other hand, those intrinsic, albeit ignored uniqueness of humdrum shop shutters first inspired Atul Dodiya for his works at Tate Modern’s ‘Century City’ show, more than a decade ago. The painter then worked on laminate board and the roller shutters. Evoking the jostling imagery of Mumbai’s streets, he mixed autobiographical portraits with those of well-known Indian personalities. The talented and socially sensitive artist’s canvases allude to everything - from the eccentric everyday India to high art elements from all over. They embrace issues ranging from exuberant Indian economy to the garish kitsch and disturbing disquiet of daily life. Indian cataclysms have shaped his work and so the explicitly political concerns without, descending into social realism. The striking imagery has invariably been packed with a stirring swirl of motifs: Bollywood, film stars, political icons, Hindu mythology characters, and so on.

How does the couple jell as artists? Providing the answer, Gayatri Rangachari Shah of The New York Times points out, “Though they are often compared to each other, Mr. Dodiya and Ms. Dodiya also tackle their work differently; she has a focused and linear creative process, whereas the former bundles myriad references in quick bursts of energy. They say criticism and feedback from their spouses is vital to their practices. “In the final analysis, we are lucky because artists want to talk, with total understanding, strong support at home — and who better than your spouse as your first trustworthy viewer?” as Atul Dodiya quips.