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A multi-faceted painter, sculptor, and installation artist
A painter, sculptor, and installation artist, all rolled in one, Sunil Gawde’s philosophy has always been not to lose his originality, always staying true to his inner voice and never resorting to short cuts. Known to be a perseverant innovator, he has steadily moved away from his earlier minimalist, 2-dimensional creations to large-scale, more ambitious and thought-provoking sculptures and dynamic multi-media installations.

The proficient practitioner blends his artistic sensibility and immense creativity with highly refined fine design & craft skills. His set of tools often includes an array of sophisticated paint materials and peculiar implements, such as trowels, scrapers etc that together attain a layered depth and feel in his pigments. This also leads to textured surfaces that appear both dynamic and dramatic. His creations are invariably contemplative in nature. Often metaphysical and metaphorical, they take shape, as the artist expertly mutates complex philosophy with ubiquitous objects from day-to-day life to which he gives a new interpretation. He radically increases their scale so their function or utility turns immaterial and the viewer is presented with an entirely different perspective.

Born 1960 in Mumbai, he did his graduation from the Sir J. J. School of Art. Though Sunil Gawde always wished to be an artist, it was not a smooth sailing for him. Utterly dejected at one point of time, as a tale goes, he undertook a sojourn to the famed shrine of Vithoba at Pandharpur in Maharashtra, spending a couple of months with the lord’s ardent devotees; a journey that proved to be ‘a revelation’; he retreated into his own self to reemerge stronger both as an individual and as an artist.

To start with, he took up a job at the Bombay Port Trust (BPT) to earn a living. For well over a decade he carried on with his shift job, even while continuing to paint. His keen observation of the surroundings and the people he worked with imparted a new dimension to his work. Traces of the peculiar surroundings appeared in his creations as the peeling layers of paint along with images of a ship's helm, which appear to reveal its histories. He emphasizes, “The job was just bread and butter for me. Art was always my life.” His perseverance finally paid off. An opportunity to study at Glasgow School of Art, Scotland proved to be a defining moment of his career.

The Charles Wallace scholarship gave a renewed impetus to his creativity, and infused a spirit of contemplation into his work. He was a visiting artist (1995-96) at Glasgow School of Art. The artist's European debut was marked with an exhibition in London. The shows at ARKS Gallery and at the Mackintosh Museum, Glasgow (1997) brought him into spotlight internationally. Since then his work has been showcased in numerous prestigious exhibits in India, France, Dubai, China and Japan. His `Blind Bulb etc.' series at Mumbai's Sakshi Gallery in 2005 was a distinct departure from his trademark abstract paintings.

The bulb seemingly represents the human body; it has an interior and an exterior - both brimming with intense possibilities of illumination. The enlarged bulb, though it connotes light, doesn’t illuminate from within; it’s not connected to its source. Its interiority gets externalized, on the contrary, through a black substance emitted, that attains the shape of a bat. This nocturnal creature doesn’t need eyes, and ‘sees’ through noise reflection. So the bulb could well be a ‘blind bulb’. The light bulb is often a symbol of enlightenment or knowledge. Yet by making it dense black, this interpretation was inverted. The ‘blind bulbs’ were initially commissioned for Saint-Tropez beach. Being placed outdoors in such a context made the irony of the piece evident, as the function of a bulb is completely unnecessary as the light it emits can in no way compete with the sunlight.

Among his other selected solos are 'Alliteration', Sakshi Gallery, Mumbai (2010); '8 Seconds Ahead of Time, Sakshi Gallery, Bangalore (2002); '1mm', Sakshi, Mumbai (2001); and 'Oblique', a traveling show in Mumbai, Chennai, Baroda, and New Delhi (1998); shows at Prithvi Art Gallery, Mumbai, ABC Art Gallery, Varanasi (1995); Chitrakoot Art Gallery, Kolkata (1994), Cymroza Art Gallery, Mumbai along with Jindal Art Foundation (1993), and Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai (1990).

His work has been featured at many significant group exhibitions, such as, 'Looking Back, Looking Forward', Sakshi, Mumbai (2012); 'Contemporary: A Selection of Modern and Contemporary Art', in Chennai (2012); 'Tech-Cut-Edge-Revelations', Ashna Gallery, Delhi (2011); and 'Inaugural Show', Sakshi Gallery, Taipei (2009), apart from noteworthy participations at events like 'Paris-Delhi-Bombay', Centre Pompidou, Paris (2011); 'Miniscule Marvel', courtesy Contemplate at Gallery BMB, Mumbai (2011); 'Finding India: Art for the New century', at Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Taipei (2010); the 2009 Venice Biennale; Art Dubai 2008, SH Contemporary 07, Singapore International Art Fair 07, Gulf Art Fair 07, and 8th Asian Art Biennial, Dhaka (1997).

Summing up his work and processes, he has stated, "I try and build up a rhythm; it's a physical thing. Intellect and planning only go so far. When I paint, something is hammering in here. At times, I like to go to extremes: to the edge. I know there are no short cuts. Each picture has to have its own sincerity."