Monday, October 22, 2012

‘Room for erasures’ at Chemould Prescott Road

In her new series, entitled ‘Room for Erasures’, artist Anju Dodiya returns to rather familiar ground to mark a sort of new beginning, trying to re-engage with certain old preoccupations albeit through carefully redrawn positions and fresh perspectives.

In this new series, the artist draws from 19th century Japanese Ukiyo-e woodblock prints and sports photography. The former depict Samurai figures that manifest an ‘obsessive lunacy’ which for her evokes the world of sport, and mimics some of ‘its desperate moments of winning and losing’.

Born in Mumbai, she did her graduation from the JJ School of Art in 1986. In 1991, she had her first solo at Gallery Chemould; now almost two decades later, she engages the larger space of Chemould Prescott Road, completing a journey she terms 'singularly sharp and linear'. In it old anxieties and recurring themes of the body embattled, decaying and in pain, exhibiting the stigmata of suffering, are granted reprieve by their revision and re-envisioning through the subtle staging of emotional distance.

As the artist clarifies, what she creates through these large paper works is a performance - a pantomime of suffering and self-doubt, choreographed as "studio-dramas", stilled in extreme gestures of restlessness and madness. An accompanying note by Mishka Sinha elaborates: “While her exploration of the human self through the experience of her own interiority forms a focalizing point for her work, the artist has taken inspiration over the years from a variety of sources, historical and contemporary, esoteric and popular, aesthetic, cinematic, and textual.”

The tragic/heroic aspirations and semblances of death the artist and her image narrate within the works, display an almost martial energy, a ritual of rigor and tension emerging from the dual elements of concealment and display that characterize these tightly controlled performances carried out in carefully structured tableaux. Yet this theatrical telling of the self, its private emotions and its secrets, are played out with irony and humor and warmed with the gossamer-light touch of earnest humanity.

The medium of watercolor is vital to the careful calibration of emotion here. Anju Dodiya indicates the language of her performance through what she describes as the ‘luminous density’ of the paint, its ‘corruption by charcoal’, and the apparent erasure that occurs as water works its way through the image, Mishka Sinha mentions. The erasures reappear within the suite of photographic works, where the images are disfigured with stains that appear on paper and skin, playing with memory and its loss.

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