Monday, October 8, 2012

‘Scribes from Timbuktu’

Paris-based Galerie Daniel Templon is hosting the first solo in France of the renowned contemporary Indian artist, Atul Dodiya. His works often channel elements of Malevitch, Picabia, Godard, and Munch apart from Bollywood, drawing from popular culture alongside cinematic and literary references. With his propensity for self-reinvention, he has worked in diverse styles, successfully embarking on newer experiments, from his early foray into photo-realism to his rolling shutter works that fetched his international recognition.

Considered one of the most widely followed and established artists of his generation, like his other renowned contemporaries, including Sudarshan Shetty and Subodh Gupta, he looks to build bridges between Indian and Western artistic traditions. He unveils the suite of his latest works - a scintillating series of oils on canvas plus watercolors largely inspired by recent upheavals that took place in Mali.

In Timbuktu, the former hub of Malian learning, many scholars are defending their rich cultural heritage courageously against the fundamentalists’ attacks. His series pays homage to these fighting scholars and their unflinching fight for artistic and cultural freedom and the unhindered transmission of memory. Skeletal silhouettes, traces of blood and cracked surfaces evoke the haunting feel of the destruction unleashed in Timbuktu.

The poignant figures tend to contrast with the soothing motifs in Turkish tapestries, Malian fabrics, mosaics, Iranian calligraphy etc. Atul Dodiya celebrates the sunniest features of rich Islamic cultural traditions. Glowing in the light of a mystical cosmic circle (moon, sun, globe, eye, and bowl), we get to see glimpses of the author’s affinity for quotations and amalgams. Each piece carries a text that features the words of French poets Claude Royet Journoud and Philippe Soupault.

The Mumbai-based artist is considered one of the flagbearers of the new generation of postmodern Indian arts. His work is marked for the richness of its stylistic vocabulary along with iconographic references essentially rooted in Indian and Western art history. He often employs rolling shutters as the apt backdrop of his art, which combines pointed snapshots of the city’s fast-changing urban landscape. The shutter art references icons, such as Mahatma Gandhi and Hindu gods among other motifs leading to complex surreal compositions.

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