Practices in Contemporary Art and Architecture: Atul Dodiya
Duration: 01:36:40; Aspect Ratio: 1.333:1; Hue: 194.256; Saturation: 0.058; Lightness: 0.295; Volume: 0.175; Cuts per Minute: 3.362; Words per Minute: 129.693
Summary: Atul Dodiya, born 1959 in Mumbai, India, studied Art at the Sir J.J. School of Art, Bombay and the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris. His paintings are populated by diverse traditions in painting, the written word, images from the media and of saints, legends, national history, political events, traumata and autobiographical narratives. His allegorical paintings on canvas or metal roller shutters and watercolours may be aggressive or poetic.
Atul Dodiya has had 25 solo shows in India and abroad, which includes a mid-career retrospective at Japan Foundation Asia Centre, Tokyo in 2001 and a solo show in Reina Sofia Museum, Madrid in 2002; Showed in 1st Yokohoma Triennale, 51st Venice Biennale, Documenta 12, 7th Gwangju Biennale & 3rd Moscow Biennale. He lives and works in Bombay, India.
Spread over a year with one lecture a month, the CoLab-Goethe Lecture Series will focus on practitioners who look at both 'reconstruction' and the 'historical turn' from the perspective of contemporary artistic practice: the revisions and re-readings that take place when images, works or events from the past circulate in a changing set of configurations; the lectures on architecture will attempt to look at the radical shift in the imagining of the public space and the notion of spatial equity, and the questions thus raised.
Transcribed by Siddharth Sareen.
Evelyn: ...it's lecture. And that is - I mean - you can witness the amount of people that want to listen to you. I had just asked him: when was the last time you were in Bangalore? It's not that long ago, but apparently it was more or less incognito, so he didn't let the public participate in it.
So I'm extremely happy that you have agreed to give that lecture - the lecture series that was mainly conceptualised by Suman for the art talks and by Edgar Demello (I'm not sure if he's here) for the architecture talks. And well, with that, I would like to hand over to my colleague Suman. Thank you.
Suman: ...the ways in which practitioners have tried to position works from the past to place them in new frameworks of interpretation. We've had illustrious people from the world of visual art and the architectural field who have spoken in this lecture. When Evelyn and I were listing the names of the artists we would like to invite for the series, we were both eager to invite Atul, because we felt that he was one artist whose work best exemplified his practice.
His work has been described as a kaleidoscope of quotations and his range of references is vast and varied. Much of it is intended to provoke insight through humour and oblique comment. I was really privileged to have the chance to show 20 of Atul's large works from a series called 'Saptapari: Scenes from a marriage' in an exhibition hall series that I co-curated in Bern in 2007. I remember standing in front of his paintings and trying to work out the riddles that he posed in each of them...
...trying to make links between the images in his work. For instance, I remember one painting called - I think it was called 'Melancholy' - where he had a really life-size image of Sonia Gandhi walking on slippery ground, taking out something from her eye - I think it was a particle or a tear. Together with two images from Sudhir Patwardhan's work. And then an eye-sized stamp next to it. So it was a plethora of images.
And so, like all of you here this evening, I am waiting to hear about Atul's creative journey, which he calls 'Somersaults in muddy water', where he will speak about his choice of references, the various mediums (sic) he works with, and the ways in which he addresses the political, the social and the personal in his painterly practice. He studied at the Sir J.J. School of Art in Bombay and at the School of Fine Arts in Paris.
He - he has had 25 solo shows in India and abroad, and this includes a mid-career retrospective at the Japan Foundation, Tokyo, in 2001, and a solo show in the Reina Sofia Museum, Madrid, in 2002. He participated in the first Yokohoma Triennale, 51st Venice Biennale, Documenta 12, the Bonjour Biennale and the 3rd Moscow Biennale. Before I give you Atul, I want to take just a few minutes more, as I would like to take the opportunity to say goodbye and thank you to a very dear colleague, Evelyn Hust, the director of the Max Mueller Bhavan, who's going to be leaving for Germany next week, to take a new position in Munich.
During her five and a half year stay in Bangalore, she has made the Goethe Institute an integral part of all the cultural activities in the city. And more importantly for me, having Evelyn here and collaborating with the Goethe Institute has been a really enjoyable experience. Evelyn's coming to Bangalore coincided with Edgar Demello and I starting CoLab Art and Architecture. She supported our programme in the early days when we had a space on Cunningham Road.
...and has continued to support us even after it evolved into a cyclists-based curatorial programme. The lecture series in particular would not have happened without her encouragement and CoLab support, so thanks Evelyn, for making so many programmes of CoLab possible. Good luck with your new position in Germany and we'll really miss you in Bangalore. So ladies and gentlemen, our guest speaker for the evening, Atul Dodiya.
Thank you, Suman, and thank you, all of you, for coming today. The Goethe Institute, Max Mueller Bhavan and city of Bangalore, I'm really happy to be here. Thank you once again. I would be showing lots of work and talking. I will try to be as brief as possible, because as one of my friends tells me, that don't ask anything to him because he starts with pre-historic! So, you know, it goes on and on, but I'll try to be as brief as possible.
and, um, you know the title, 'Somersault in muddy waters', is just a title - because when Suman told me that normally also we have a lecture and the lecture has some title, so think about it, and, um, muddy waters, because at the moment, I myself is in a big mess. The mess is not outside or in the studio or anywhere, but it's here in my head. I'm totally confuse, which I am often, and often confuse, I'm heavily influenced, diverse things, I want to do simultaneously, at the same time. Due to that, there are always these doubts and questions and, uh, worry.
Anyway. I would - you know, first I thought that if I select few works and specific body and just that, that will be probably more, kind of a precise and very subject-oriented talk, if I do it. But then I felt that since I'm coming for the first time in Bangalore for a - of course I had a show here once at Sumukha Gallery but this kind of a thing, I thought lot of people may not have seen my early works. So I thought that best that if I start from '87 onwards.
Um, if, a small brief thing about myself would be appropriate, so I must tell you that I was born, brought up in Bombay. My father came from Saurashtra in '38. So my five sister, myself, my brother, we were all born and brought up in Bombay and always lived there. Um, very early, at the age of 11, I was absolutely clear that I want to be a painter and then I pursued the art of painting.
I must say that essentially I am a painter and I have done some works which are slightly different in terms of medium and material. Um, one can call them a kind of installation but the - basically, it's all painting. Everything like rollers, shutters, cabinets, they all go against wall. Lot of objects I don't keep in the middle the way sculptures are kept and sometimes seen from all sides. So I think these works are - essentially, I still consider them as paintings.
When I started very early, I must tell you that one, I mean literature and cinema simultaneously, you know, along with the paintings, which I started kind of looking carefully, painting become priority because I could draw well and I felt that I could - you know, it was easy. You know, a schoolboy has a paper and pencil, there's a subject also of drawing and painting in school. So one would kind of - it was easy.
But I must tell you that one specific incidence. Of course, there are, I mean two things happened. One is when I felt at the age of 11 (I was in sixth standard) that "Oh, I can draw well and I love painting!" and the - I was possessed kind of about, so I was keep on drawing and painting. At the same time I got heavy injury while playing gilli-danda in my right eye and lost vision. It was a cataract due to injury and it was there for a long time.
And it was just one eye with which I was just kind of you know living for a long time and same time in '72, when Bombay Doordarshan started - the television centre - and they used to show regional films on Saturdays. Kannada films, Malayalam films, Bengali films, Marathi films, which we used to see. At home, there was a heavy cinema interest. My parents both were - of course, Hindi films. My father, of course, loved K.L. Saigal and Ashok Kumar and my mother loved Dilip Kumar and Talat Mahmood song. Um, I remember that on one Saturday there was a film called Nayak (Hero) by Satyajit Ray.
And of course, I don't even remember the subtitles, I don't speak Bangla, I don't even remember if there were subtitles, but they knew that here is a big filmmaker and Pather Panchali was a big famous film. So this bit I knew. So we just sat down, all my sisters, we were watching. The film is about a story of a film star and he has got an award and for that to receive that award he is going to Delhi - a national award. And he decides to go by train instead of going by plane. So in the train, it starts - the whole film is in the train.
And the opening shot is there is this film star settling in his chair in the compartment, and a lady comes and she is a journalist called Aditi. She thought that "Come on, there is this film star and I must take the interview!" - Sharmila Tagore - looked beautiful in that film. She was the actress and she said, she thought that she would kind of take interview. Train starts and still it has not left Bengal, but Calcutta, you know, Howrah was left and some villages passing and small town or village comes where the train stops.
Here this actor comes out and you know he thought - he is just looking - and the guy comes, the tea, in a mud pot. He takes the tea and is about to drink the tea and he does this and he sees that the actress, the journalist, she is looking at him, so he just offers him with a gesture like this, and she says no. With just, she moves her head. That's it. That shot, you know, it's hardly a second, and it made such an impact on me. You know, I was in seventh standard, 12 year old boy, and I felt "My God". You know, we had seen films...
The Hindi films mostly, but nothing like that. Of course, the film is much more complex, you know, I'm sure you, many of you must have seen it, about name, fame, money and man-woman relationship, everything in the Nayak film. But this one gesture, the way it was caught in the camera had a big impact on me. And then I wanted to also think in terms of "What if I make films?"
And so the literature and you know imagining scripts and you know imagining shots, but if I've seen something in film, which I feel it's not the right way, what if it would have been shot in this manner. Of course, I mean, this kind of introduction is for that, that moving image, story, the urge to tell stories, these are all something which at that time I was not aware. I joined J.J. School of Art. J.J. School of Art was mainly my friends and colleagues and seniors, they were doing abstract work.
I wasn't in all these things and at the same time there was a big movement happen in Faculty of Fine Arts and in the town of Baroda, where figuration and the narative school with artists like Bhupen Khakhar and Gulam Mohammed Sheikh and many - even my contemporaries, we were all kind of looking at those kind of work, and I started with figurative work. Then of course then I passed out, I was gold medallist, teaching there for one year at J.J., realised that I love teaching and talking and sharing but that would take a lot of my own time from my painting.
So I said might as well not continue painting and not to continue teaching. But of course, you know the, and then of course, I was looking at, you know, other masters' work, and one of the biggest regrets which I still have, is that the lack of great museums here in India. You know, like if there's a student in London, if he wants to see Rembrandt, or if he wants to see Piero della Francesca or a Picasso or even a Josef Bois he can simply go to National Gallery, Tate Gallery, wherever.
They can actually confront the real original works of the masters. We were taught all this through slides, through reproduction books, but just, I had to imagine. And we were heavily influenced by the American masters like William (?), Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock among the abstractionists, and Jasper Johns, Rauschenberg and Warhol, Lichtenstein, all these people, and we knew that they are all large-scale paintings and the museums are beautiful. So you know, one has to just imagine, and one can't but have the experience.
So there was always this immense urge to go abroad particularly in the Europe and in U.S. and see the paintings, so I, but, it was too far, then. And it was impossible, almost, in those days for you. Already you know, my neighbours and my family, other people, they were telling my parents that you know, why you have sent him to fine arts? He will starve. There is no future in this. At least do commercial art, do the designing, whatever, but not your painting.
But I used to share with them, I used to talk with them, and I always felt that sharing, and you know mentioning, talking about what I'm doing, I would you know, my mother and my father, they were not really you know educated in that manner, but I always spoke to them in whatever way I could I would explain, try to explain: Tyeb Mehta painting, and you know, try to convey them that how great this is. I mean Tyeb Mehta in the sense any, any, some painting which I have seen or I like.
So they were quite convinced that we should be allowed. And that's how it all started. In '87 I realised that I really enjoy painting figures and you know the afternoon, when everything is over, the kitchen is quiet, and you know, there is solitude. The maid is gone, mother is sleeping, those moments were so quiet, so I wanted to depict, you know, the solitude and silence. And I already seen the works by artists like Edward Hopper and I mentioned about artist Bhupen Khakhar and he was you know, one of the artists whom I thought that he is very unusual...
...in his style, in his manner, in his approach towards the subject matter, the titles of his work, they were quite fascinating, but of course, since he was not a trained painter, the figuration was very different. And when I saw British artist David Hockney who could draw well, I felt "Oh, this is something!", so actually the real influence, if I have to say, it was David Hockney in my early days. And probably you will also see.
But I think till '84-'85, those days were still tough, and first time I showed my works - it was in '85, and it was with Pushpamala! She's here and I'm so happy that she is here. In fact, quite a few artists are here, whom I have a deep respect and I feel honoured that they are here. Harsha is here, I'm sure Sheela Gowda, whom I have great respect - I don't know whether she is here or not but Sheela, I mean there are many artists from this region, and among them a lot of younger people whom I don't know personally but...
...I've seen their work, they're all quite fascinating work they do. So I think, till '85-'86 okay, but '87 somewhere I felt that I've got something, so I'm starting with the one specific painting which I did called 'July'. It was painted in July and in July we have a very heavy rain, so I think we just start the - Harsha, can you help me, please? So, yeah, I would prefer that if you can switch off these lights. I can see it here.
Yeah. Ok. I won't go into details because there are lots of works and lots of images, some of the images, works has details of each individual painting, so I'll go little fast but there are specific, um, things which happen. Yeah one of the things which I was saying is you know since I feel that you know I miss the great masters' works and they are you know, you can't see them, so through books I used to see their works. And what I started doing is a kind of image with dialogue with these masters - what if I kind of you know, see what happened with the poet.
When poet writes in a language and when you talk like that and it's English or it's Gujarati, you know, he writes in Gujarati as well as you know, when you talk about the poem it's again in Gujarati language. But with visual art, with painting what happens that I paint, which is a visual language, but when I talk about it, like right now I'm talking in English - and I have a limitation with the language. With language - English language I have a limitation, as well as to express - I want to say red and I may say blue, you know, it's possible. So those problems of you know of talking and sharing with the language - these are all things I was thinking.
And I thought if I want to do a critique and I want to write, so dialogue, basically. And the images of other people started coming in my work. And I love to see, I enjoy seeing things, you know. I feel that, some of my friends used to tell me, that don't see, because if you see other people's work you will be influenced. And if you are influenced then you know, those influences will kind of kill your originality.
So I must tell you, friends, that I have total, a lack of originality, there is no originality. (Audience laughs) I am a parasite, you know. You will see that. You know there are a lot of works which I kind of hold and you know I enjoy. So still sometimes I feel that the approach is almost like a student's approach, you know, and that's how it's going but somehow I feel like you know, this is how I enjoy, and this is how I like it and this is how I can do it.
So this is the one which is called 'July'. 'Distant Thunder'. Again a Ray film title called 'Ashani Sanket'. That was in English 'Distant Thunder'. It's a 'Sabarmati Ashram', self portrait. '88. Large 6' by 8' oil. 'Yogi', my nephew. Most of these oils are quite large, 6 feet by 6 feet, 5 feet by 7 feet, 6 by 4, 'Room'. 'Goldfish', a tribute to Matisse. 'Father'. I realise that I like to have some kind of puzzle in my work where people find what exactly is happening or what are the things which are going on.
Like for example, we see him, a specific personality, sitting there, and he is looking at my painting, but what he is looking that we don't see. But there is a drips which comes on side of canvas - of course this projection you can't see much, but they were quite colourful edge on the side, and rest of things monochrome. 'Bombay Buckaneer'. Yeah, this was after, of course I must tell you that in 1991, um, '92, like, as I say that, when I started painting, I got hurt in my right eye, and when the time came to go abroad - I was awarded a French government scholarship and I was about to leave Paris, at the same time again I had a terrible time with my eyes.
I had retina detachment and when doctor checked my eye he say that other eye, which was normal and fine, there were holes in that eye as well. So after the operation, there were 7 days, both the eyes were closed, and it was the most traumatic time for me, but then immediately I left for Paris, and that was another world. And Paris gave me great things. I mean I learnt so much. I was just 7 minutes away from Picasso Museum in Marais, I was staying there and I felt - first I felt that I call myself a figurative painter, and within the figurative genre such a profound work has happened that whatever I was doing I felt it was ordinary.
And i lost faith in myself. It took three years for me to come to terms with what I should be doing and ... but one thing I, the courage and the um solid energy which I got from Picasso, and I realised that this man is genius you know, very early he's showed and he was already known and still he would kind of keep on changing all the time. You know, often there are just female portraits or still life, but every time, even till today, like a strange Picasso would come somewhere in reproduction or somewhere and I say 'Oh my God, what a wonderful work!'
And you know it's, he still surprises. So I said if this man has no fear whereas I am nobody, and if I am nobody and, you know, I don't have to prove to anyone, toh why not to allow? And I said now I'm going to do the whatever i feel like. Because you know, when I ... before I left, I was a very close friend of artists like Tyeb Mehta, Akbar Padamsee, Prabhakar Barwe, Gieve Patel, Sudhir Patwardhan, they were all - Sudhir and Gieve are still - very close friends and we used to meet and I thought they would say that 'Oh, Atul was much better before he left.'
Probably. And you know, now he got influenced. And I was very scared of Tyeb Mehta particularly. The rest of the friends were very, kind of easy, but Tyeb was very strict. And I felt if I paint something like this, you know, which was a first, and you know the head is like almost four feet large, it's based on a film poster, Baazigar, two actresses in Shahrukh Khan's glasses - that was the ad - and I thought that I would like to paint this too, painter whom I admire...
And the humour and wit is such a strong aspect of their work and I just did it and yeah, so. After '94-'95 all kinds of things have happened. Of course, I mean there are all kinds of narratives but I'm not going to in that otherwise it'll be too long and probably boring. 'Dela'(?), six feet by four feet. 'O Naina', this is about my sister's illness and she had a terrible time with a tumour on her pituitary gland and there were three-four major operations, opening the skull etc. so just to show her pain. And I mean, all the time she was in hospital and so family everyone suffered so...
...instead of showing surgeon's tools on the hospital bed as a still life I took carpenter's tools and just to show her painful existence. 'No fresh lesions' - in the North, the mosque was demolished, Bombay saw subsequent riots and serial bomb blasts. Country was kind of quite shocked about what happened and the tension between the communities. So this is a scene, it's called 'No fresh lesions'.
When I go for my periodical check-ups every time doctor would write that everything is okay and no fresh lesions - there is no more scar. And when I did this painting it's almost as if you know you see the Kanchenjunga building which Charles Correa has designed on Peddar Road which looks like a jigsaw puzzle. And as if you know the whole image is seen through a wet eye. It's six feet by eight feet large canvas. I wanted to some sort of a, you know, how the city of Bombay...
...serious poetry, it's in Urdu and it's by Faiz. Ahmed Faiz it is one of the couplet. 'Dr. Patel's clinic', Lamington Road. 'Lamentation'. '97 India was celebrating 50 years of independence and we were invited for many shows and at that point I felt that I have done many paintings based on Gandhi and I thought of Gandhi and I realised that we are no doubt happy that we are independent and 50 years and everything. The painting called 'First Steps' by Picasso as you see in the picture.
A young girl learning to walk. Old man is going, young man is learning to walk - what kind of future she has. These are the all kinds of questions and doubts I had. At the same time I did another painting. 'Trans-Siberian Express' for Kajal. And I mean you know like, actually the previous one which you saw from 'Apu Sansar' - the world of Apu, by Ray - it's totally different film, different tone and different kind of a subject.
And the very next, actually literally next painting which I did was this one called 'Gabbar on Gambauj'. So I mean you know, this is, this is too different. And I thought that this is the way I would feel all the time. The moment of sadness and you know fun and laughter. All this, you know, simultaneously were happening. If you can switch off or put your mobiles on silent mode that would be great.
'Matrishka'. This is homage to Russian film maker Andre Tarkovski. The - Tarkovski's picture you see behind the mirror. Cinema was celebrating 100 years, during that time this was done. Again my sister Naina, she is up there standing. 'Heroic fiddling' - that's the title of the work. 'Three painters'. Bhupen, myself, we're looking at a Rene Magritte painting. 'Snail on the shoulder' - homage to Prabhakar Barwe. Barwe was a dear friend and we used to share and talk a lot.
He died in '95. 'Highway: For Mansur'. So miniatures, you know, my interest it varies, as far as art is concerned. Like early German woodcuts, medieval European tapestries, 6th and 7th century Chinese calligraphy, Indian miniature paintings 18th century, which I have kind of painted here. This is called 'Dadagiri', German artist Gerhard Richter's portrait. There is also a text underneath which is painted in marble dust with relief on it.
Which of course we can't read it here. But Richter talks a lot and he has given lots of interviews on writings and he is a painter you know painting today, whereas a lot of different kinds of works are happening. And he denies the role of, I mean not the role but I think he doesn't approve the what Marcel Duchamp or Andy Warhol used to say and he was criticising 'Dadaism' in this text, it comes somewhere in the thing, so I just thought and I was kind of quite fascinated by the glance and the command...
...which artist is holding and I thought this is interesting, to call the work 'Dadagiri'. I also love this kind of pun, you know the Gangavatar and the descent of Ganga, Ravi Varma's oleograph. And Ganga is superimposed by Duchamp's nude descending staircase. So when my mother sees, mother knows very well the myth of Ganga, but she doesn't know Duchamp at all. And people who know Duchamp sometimes you know they don't know the myth of Ganga.
And I know both. So I enjoy this hybrid sort of things coming together. And yeah, now there is some kind of a change you see. This is a laminate, you know, the kind of formica sunmica kind of material which we use to paste on furniture. This is a silver coloured thing and it's called 'Man with Chakki' and the circles which you see there are mirrors. And so when one is looking the shape is also the map of India.
And the man is with handmill defecating. And when the viewer is looking at the painting there is a reflection of the viewer, fragmented into the circles. 'A poem for friends'. Many things were happening by the end of you know 20th century within our art scene here. Lots of diverse things were, you know, people were attempting. And I was quite fascinated the way photography was happening. Video things were coming, mixed media works were happening.
Installations were happening. So you know, many different things which we were kind of attempting simultaneously. And I had done this work. Again the marble pattern laminate. Enamel paint, text and image. After doing the 'Lamentation' painting, the one series - first time I ever painted in a series - it was about Mahatma Gandhi and they were all large six feet by four feet watercolours. And I thought that you know just one painting and what I was feeling is not sufficient, I have to have a series of paintings and I thought I must depict Gandhi.
The problem was that a person who is interested in Duchamp and Richter and you know all kind of Picasso and other things, so concern is more all those painterly concern with painting and the art and references from other artists, and suddenly to do a series on a great leader or statesman or you know, Mahatma, is something, was not logical. I felt. It was not logical in the sense I was not convinced myself within. And I felt that how to go and approach.
But I there was a tremendous need to you know, kind of talk about Gandhi, his philosophy of non-violence, you know, his love, you know the canvas itself is an object, the oil paint, pigment, has a solid weight in it, and linseed oil has a smell. And turpentine. I think watercolour would be the ideal thing to depict the personality of Gandhi. Because it was little bit of pigment and lots of water. And purity and imagacy of the treatment that would depict beautifully Gandhi.
And I did the series called 'An artist of non-violence'. Uh, as I was saying that is was tough to paint Gandhi, or talk about the states, the situation in the state of the nation. I was entering into a political sort of area, arena. And but, at the same time I came across a statement by Gandhi where he is saying that I am not a rishi, philosopher - approach to life, you know his clothing, the feel of khadi, the structure of his ashram, lifting the pinch of salt, Dandi yatra, non-cooperation.
Fasting, I thought these are all kind of a highly conceptual act. So I said he is the first conceptual artist. Then you know, 'Post-dated cheque', I painted myself behind him as if I heard the joke. 'S.S. Rajputana'. He went for a round-table conference in this boat. 'Painful resolution'. They are all six feet by four feet large watercolours.
And as I was saying that I wanted to call him a conceptual artist and I said how to say that through a work of art. And I thought the Joseph Beuys - great German artist, you know - is an ideal example. So this one is called 'Bapu at Rene Block gallery: New York, 1974'. The performance which he did there, Beuys, as if Gandhi has gone to see that. This is a different kind of you know figuration.
You can see, up till now, the figures, whether it is 'Bombay buccaneer', 'Letter from father' or early paintings or even Gandhi, first time I painted figures which are not based on any photographic reference. They were more free-floating figures, demonic skeletal figure, sitting - after Gandhi I felt it was logical to talk about also common man.
Poor man. And I thought of this kind of female figure sitting on the map of India as if a mad person sitting on a street, or a beggar. And I felt is it possible to paint a picture of a beggar today - a contemporary artist, can someone paint a beggar or that kind of figure. So there was a series of 12 works - I'm showing four works here. This is called 'Houseboat'. 'Shipwreck'. 'Petals'.
Again, it was a totally different kind of thing which I was doing with that series, and when I was out of it I felt the need to do something, and of course this was a - you know, during those days there was a lot of, a lot of theme-based shows were happening. And one of the show which happened about celebrating the element of kitsch. And I did this - the playing cards which you see there are not painted, they are already printed on the laminate image, so it was called 'Tombsday'.
It was a triptych. President Putin. You know when this all dignitaries when they come to India from outside, presidents and all those, and then next day when they go to see Taj and there is a picture in the newspaper. So this is President Putin, Clinton with his daughter Chelsea, and P.C. Sircar who did this magic for few moments, he made you know, vanish Taj. So this is the 'Tombsday'.
Tate Modern, when it opened, the very first show which they organised called 'Century City', Bombay was one of the cities and each city was given a specific time period and the curators were very keen that if I do specifically for the show something. I shared with them the idea of painting on the roller shutters. Because you know the city Bombay was chosen for the last decade of the 20th century, in fact '92 to 2000. The last eight years.
And I did portraits of my sister, my brother, myself. It was a kind of a triptych again. The shutter is operatable. And when you open there is no room inside, but there is another painting inside, that's what the thing. This was a 200 work. And um, I felt that of course my brother, myself, we all live in this city of Bombay and still, but the childhood has gone, have gone. You know the shutters are closed either on holiday (garbled).
So I also was you know the painting always has remained a concern, how to make myself difficult to paint, that also I was thinking. And the corrugated surface of the shutter would be very difficult to sort of paint a figure and also when you operate it, I invite viewer to sort of you know, throw it up, pull it down.
Then I did few more shutters. This one is called 'B for Bapu'. 'Mahalakshmi'. Yeah I mean obvious South Indian calendar of Mahalakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity and the image, '78, three sisters - Sahu sisters - they hang themselves because the father could not afford dowry. And in a Hindu family we say when the girl child is born... And first time I painted the head of Lakshmi on the hood. So that smiling colourful head remains there.
And when you oepn it you have this kind of bleak sight. But I also felt this is too much direct and kind of you know like a newspaper headline kind of thing. But I felt the need to do it and I said let it be. It may not work as a kind of beautiful complex work, but I think I should do it. Then a show happened at Rainer Sofia museum in Madrid, it was called ET and others.
Einstein and Tagore. Already the twin towers were demolished, Americans had war on terrorism and you know the, it was all what we saw on television channel, newspaper photographs, that Afghanistan, you know the houses, the landscape was so barren. The houses were as if you know even a hit with your leg, the wall ... right for people to explain them what the scriptures and what the religion, the philosophy means.
I was thinking that what kind of after 1,000 years, after 2,000, 5,000 whatever, what history will be written of our time. So this scribe is you know writing, reading, he's on a war plane. And he's simultaneously defecating. And the giants like Tagore and Einstein you know, as if they are witnessing or they are, they are there, you know in this strange kind of figure. 'Miraj'.
2002 a show happened in Machester. It was about 'New Indian art: home, street, bazaar, shrine, museum' - that was a kind of long title the show had. And again, you know, I did something, first time I did something which was not pure painting, but installation with cabinets. And when I was doing this, of course the cabinets were based very much. See, the theme and the subject, when we were talking about the whole talk, without kind of expressly talking about the whole thing, but you can make out, that this is the kind of thing which I saw in Gandhi's birthplace.
Which is now memorial museum. Of course the cabinets are shallow over there, like this, and there is a slope on the top part, so the birds can't sit on there, the pigeons come in our museums, you know, easily. And but mostly there are photographs and letters... branches, you know, the great India, the great nation, the great tradition, the great heritage.
And how now you know, what we are doing, what's happening, so the cabinets were placed like this in one room. There are some details also, we will get to know what are the things inside. Prosthetic limbs, human bones, mason's tools, um, this face which you see here, it was a small tiny item, news item in Bombay's tabloid, uh, evening newspaper, and the story was that this... I took the photograph, enlarged it, there were some yellow stains I made on the face and kept here.
I never been to Kashmir. And you know, people who they went to Kashmir, they used to get this kind of wooden carved birds and they used to keep on the wall like this. These are some of the details from the cabinets, broken branches. Uh, 'Antler Anthology', a series of large watercolours came after that. Um, seven feet by four feet large paper. And they are all text-based work. They are all contemporary Gujarati poetry. And most of the poets and the poems I am familiar with.
This was the seris of 12 works which was shown in Documenta 12 in Kassel, Germany. Uh, this is a site-specific work where I was invited in Bombay at the Grand Hyatt Hotel. And the Delhi based designer Rajeev Sethi was kind of curating or sort of organising rather, the whole lobby for them. And everyone was given a theme - the theme was Shiva Parvati.
And the subject which was given to me from the god goddess - Shiva Parvati - was - there is a beautiful sculpture in Elephanta near Bombay and it's about Shiva and Parvati's playing a game of dice in which Shiva is cheating so Parvati is upset. So these are the details of the cabinets. Three jars with ashes in it in front of Sonia Gandhi's photograph which was taken by Rajiv Gandhi.
Amitabh Bachchan and Rakhee and Reshma aur Shera. The last shot of Pather Panchali. His name was Harihar - the Lord Shiva. Shiva's another name. Poor Brahmin, leaving the family house and coming to Benares. It's strange feeling, that I'm seeing all these images facing you people, and you're facing me, but you're looking at there, so it's very, it's like cycling the other way kind of a feeling.
Everything is okay there? Yeah. That's Yugoslavian artist Marina Abramovic, one of our performances. Of course I put those eyes in a different way at different places. Shiva's third eye was the idea. 'Cracks in Mondrian' - again a reference to a great Dutch master. And the idea was of course I enlarged. It is supposed to be the map of Delhi and Shahjehanabad means Delhi.
So you know how in time changes and how you know the boundaries and states and places changes but we still cling to these things and uh, it is disgusting actually. When you have you know beautiful kind of very austere and very spiritual kind of experience and which the plasticity of Mondrian painting then I thought that it has to be attached to ... very close to the thing. And we know what goes through the drainage pipes and I thought that yeah this is the way it should be displayed.
I was also kind of going close to Mondrian's time and I wanted to bring Mondrian in our time so it's almost like kind of a slight relief sculptural piece on the wall. 'Kashmir'. Again the pink patch which you see is Kashmir at that time. 'Devoured darkness' - a series of works which came with gallows - mirror is attached and text is readable. They are all texts from you know great 12th century Vachana poet Allama Prabhu.
Kannada poet, translated by A.K. Ramanujan in speaking of Shiva. And I was thinking that how the gallow obviously is a fearful object - punishment and death it depicts, but, so, I thought that probably the fear might vanish if you confront it aesthetically. I mean, I don't know, this is one thing to say, which is fine, but more than that also I mean the poem itself is so contemporary you can't imagine that you know this is written by a saint-poet 800 years back.
So you know this sheer urge to talk about it, how to. So I have to find out a logic for that. That's also one process which artist kind of keeps working on. Series of work which I did in Singapore in paper pulp, and when the paper is in the form of pulp, at that time you work on it and it was called 'Wet sleeves of my paper robe'. 'Shabri in her youth' after Nandlal Bose.
These were the works which were shown here at the Sumukha Gallery in 2006 in Bangalore. Actually the idea of Shabri, you know, the character from Ramayana, which came in my work in a very different way. We know the story of Shabri, that she was old lady waiting for Lord Rama and finally she meets Rama and she offered beri ... Shabri in her youth, Shabri in her middle age, Shabri in her old age - it's in New Delhi's NGMA.
When I saw that I was quite surprised by one thing. When I saw that I was quite surprised by one thing, that what we know about Shabri is mostly in her old age. But Shabri in her youth, I said then what she was doing. And what Nandlal had depicted, it was like kind of tribal Santhal semi-nude female figure holding the tree branch on a trunk standing and with quite authority, like that.
And um, so I felt that if Shabri was young - when she met Rama, Rama was young and she was very old, so that means when she was young probably Rama was not even born. So that means we are talking about the pre-epic, or pre-mythic time. And so I said this is only artists can imagine. And some work from that, it's called 'Lanka Burning'. There are lot of different kind of materials are involved in this process.
This one is called 'Fourth Shabri'. 'Ray Lift'. 'Shabri entering her middle age'. 'Shabri shaking Mondrian'. 'With her birds'. You know, I all the time I am painting, I am in my studio, I don't have holidays. Holidays are you know when we are travelling for exhibitions abroad or somewhere else, at that time we you know whatever, but those are again not holidays, because you know then you want to go to museums and you want to go to galleries and see shows and you want to kind of grab everything.
So when, but then I get exhausted, then I need some rest, so I do some small works on paper. That is my way of you know relaxing. So there are some things which I have done which I have never shown anywhere.No one has seen these, these are with me only, some series of ornothological studies I do and I enjoy. These are all imperial size works.
I mean calendar art, nature studies, you know the early prints, oleographs, many things inspire me in many ways. The kind of show which happened in Shanghai in 2007, I did a series of works based Pune, near Bombay, so the texts are from Arun Jezuri(?). I am showing you - there were four pillars in the gallery which I covered with tiles of god goddesses from various religions.
Suresh, I was talking about the tubelights, so this is. Yeah. The poem was painted like this, it is eight feet tall, but you can't read like this, you can only see like this, under the jail door. Uh, I was talking about Bhupen Khakhar and you know, Bhupen was a dear friend, we used to share a lot, lots of talk and gossips. And um, quite a personality he was, and when he died in 2003 there was a show about, his friends kind of painted something and it was a homage to Bhupen.
But then later on I did a big sort installation kind of work and show which was called 'Sri Khakhar prasanna' and so some of the images from that show. These are all painted on dried peepal leaf. Bhupen's portraits. Of course there is no road on his name, Baroda has not yet given him that, but I thought let me just make one.
Vallabhbhai, Ranchodbhai, Shankarbhai, Hirabhai, they were all Bhupen's partner. Bhupen was gay and they were all friends so I did a kind of shop sign for them. Gandhi's daily thoughts were engraved in a marble plank. Uh, I talked about the Grand Hyatt work, and during that time I was already working on a series called 'Saptapadi: Scenes from marriage regardless' and the joy and sorrow of married life.
And they were all same size, six feet by four feet works on laminate with enamel paint and lot of synthetic varnish on it. This is called 'Devi and the sink'. 'Couple with coffee pot'. You see the Tom and Jerry cartoon, they were already existing when I bought the ready made laminate. Around that I composed my figures. 'Charu'. I mean of course all the four actresses which I'm showing from a specific film - Charulata, Madhvi Mukherjee, Brigitte Bardot from 'Contempt' by Godard, Jeanne Moreau in 'Night', in Antonioni's - Michelangelo Antonioni's film and Liv Ullmann in the famous 'Scenes from a Marriage'...
...by Bergman, where the actresses are into a kind of very deep sort of a conflict with men and the married life. 'Unmerry Monarch' - Rehman, actor from 'Chaudavin ka Chaand'. 'Bloodline'. 'Family tree' - my parents and myself. Actually this whole thing started you know, when I was thinking that I want to do a series of paintings about marriage and married life, so the way I was kind of conceiving I was writing notes and kind of more than you know, often sketches I have Guinness Book of Records - 'Pringle Mala' - and he has not cut his nails in one hand for 45 years!
So what happened then when he is travelling. I mean he is very happy, his wife is also very happy. So I was wondering that how they must be living, how he must be sleeping, how he must be doing his daily things. And particularly when he goes travelling you know, at the airport there is a huge sack hanging at his hand and the security wants to see what's there, what's inside and they get horrified you know, when they see this. But they are very happy.
'Angelina'. That's my wife's portrait - Anju. Ah, Harsha you will have to. There are a few more done in 2008, there was a series of small watercolours - almost 48 watercolours I did, I will show very few, and it was called 'Pale Ancestors'. And you know I would just approach my paper without having any clue what is going to happen, sometimes I would just draw a circle and that would become a head or just a line which would be a stretched arm and every painting - it's in watercolour...
...and a very very pale tone, brown ambers and all, and anybody would kind of demand me to do something which I will not. I keep on changing all the time, I know what kind of work sells and what kind of work doesn't sell, but one has to do what one has to do. And that's what's great that so many artists are doing it with that sort of spirit. So when Damien Hirst - a wonderful artist, I really like his work - he did a skull which had diamonds on it and it was priced at 100 million pound.
A small life-size thing and I mean the work is beautiful, I like it, I wish I would have done that, you know, that kind of feeling I have. But when the price came in every time you know whatever articles in the magazines it came, it was all only about that. I said, you know, a poet - poet meaning artist, a true artist (skipped) 'Doctor from Mozambique'. 'Kaftan'. 'Shop in Beirut'. I mean, I'm, I know you can read it also, but probably on the last line they may not be able to read, that's why I'm reading.
'Maa'. 'Walking Men'. 'Kabul Express'. 'Babel'. 'Hunter'. 'Dead Ancestor'. The one independent, one cabinet which I did for a show which was travelling in Maharashtra, it is called 'New Friend'. It's a kind of iron cabinet with a glass door on it and there are cement Siporex blocks are kept which are carved and that is a image which you see is by American artist Robert Motherwell who did the series of paintings on a large canvas called 'Elegy to Spanish Republic'.
So the inside gray turns like this and behind the cabinet there is a poem and it is framed under glass and um, it was written by a poet called Raghu Dandavati - of course, Raghu is also no more, a dear friend. And the poem is called 'New Friend' - navinus dost. It says that - I would just translate it quickly - that I see a new friend recently in our village, smiling smiling, holding rifle in his hand, I see him every day. He smiles, he drinks water, he talks.
These are the inside objects which of the details of the cabinet. Again Allama Prabhu, and the work is a site-specific work in a private house in Bombay. There were 21 temples lit with LED lights and some objects inside. It's called 'Heaven and Earth'. So before you enter the house there is a long corridor and this goes on your left hand side and but before that this text comes on your left, so one reads or one sees that first and then the, the installation starts like this.
After long time I painted oils, oil on canvas. You know when I had my roller shutter works, there were always closed view, full-open view and half-open view. So when I would see the reproduction of my half-open view I thought what if I paint this on a flat surface and I did a series of paintings called 'Malevich matters and other shutters'. Malevich was a Russian minimalist painter.
In the early period of 20th century. So these are not real shutters, it's just kind of oil on canvas. This is Abnindranath Tagore. Again a poem by a Gujarati poet Kamal Vora. It says that if I break the egg, many suns may come out, or globe of earth, or roaring sea. If I break the egg. But the egg which I am holding in my hand - what if I don't break it?
It was strange that I, when last time I was here I went to Mysore with Harsha and there was this plastic cut-out thing which was hanging in his house - this is of course Bhupen's famous painting 'Man eating jalebi' - and what I was you know quite fascinated by one thing - I mean I was happy, actually about one thing, that Bhupen's painting is, all the elements from Bhupen's painting, from that man eating jalebi, are here in this trip.
And that painting is square actually. You know, that Bhupen painting is absolutely square painting and within this thing you know, the way it got composed, which I was quite thrilled. I was then, when I thought of doing you know, I said you know some sweet mart - since Bhupen's thing is written - what shall I do and I thought of you know writing Harsha Sweets. Then there was a big truck ... well, and...
The three, again, three paintings based on Bhupen Khakhar's painting. Of course, the image which you saw on the front is Malevich figure. And there are actual holes on the shutter which look like bullet marks. Oh sorry.
'Saraswati'. Exactly after ten years I painted after Mahalakshmi, another goddess Saraswati. Prophet's dargah in Karabala. And the black mass, abstract mass you see is the map of Qatar where M.F. Husain is living now. These are large, seven feet by five feet watercolours. They were shown in Berlin last October-November in my solo show called 'If it rains fire'.
'Self-portrait between Pakistan and Bangladesh'. It's on a metal canvas, the surface is iron which is oxidised, as if it's the back side of canvas and European museums, those are also pleased because it's metal surface, and it sticks well. 'Picnic with Picabia'. Picabia was French artist along with Duchamp, one of the pioneers of dadaism. These are the details of the same painting.
'Krishna swallowing forest fire'. This one is again Motherwell imagery. It's called 'Robed' - seven feet by five feet, metal canvas. These are the magnets. La pisceus(?) - pissing woman. Again Motherwell.
'Tsunami'. 'Portrait of a dealer'. We are almost done so five more minutes. I mean I thought that after all these years you know, I said I could talk about marriage, I could talk... I mean you can't see actually you know this painting has to be seen original because there is a very subtle drawing of a man who has a golden duck and he wanted all the duck's ... and he kills the duck, that's the story which runs through the thing. Some details.
Actually I am you know I have very mixed feelings about the Bollywood films. I hate actually those films, but ... Jeevan and Madanpuri and Prem Chopra that has gone. So I am, I like them, watching and the way they throw dialogues and. Details from 'Portrait of a dealer - II'.
That's Mehmud from 'Padosan'. Well I, now it ends here, actually, so, not at this image ... when I got the catalogue and I saw the show I was not that thrilled actually with the kinds of things you know which I saw, and but the catalogue was there with me. So one fine morning I just took the marker and started doing something over the images and it was in 2004 actually and itwas there with me. And this time I could not think of any wit and humour in painting you know, so I said 'What to do?'
Then finally I did this so this is Jatin Das. Ranbir Kaleka. Vivan Sundaram. Bhupen Khakhar. And I, the process was absolutely direct, immediate, no more thoughts were given. And not second time. I had two catalogues so I could have you know the same image if it is not, doesn't work, I can go to another catalogue. But even I tried that and that didn't work. The second attempt was failure.
So the first and the direct first thing that came to me was the right thing. This is Bose himself. Ganesh Pyne. Ghulam Sheikh. Jehangir Sabavala. Jitish Kallat. K.G. Subramanian. Nilima Sheikh. Anju Dodiya. S.H. Raza. Tyeb Mehta. Bharti Kher. Natraj Sharma. Pushpamala N. Sheela Gowda. N.S. Harsha. Myself. That's it. Thank you. (Applause).
Evelyn: Quip about plagiotism(?) and stealing? Because you know, but since you are also very openly telling about where you get it from, it's perfectly alright. Um, I had the feeling that you were telling about your background that you were a teacher for a year and I think we are obviously happy that you started and became and remained a painter but I think we lost a great teacher.
Atul: Thank you.
Evelyn: Because I think using other people's art and putting it into that very subjective individualistic context is teaching us a lot about the present day, about you, about the artist you are using, and possibly once in a while you should go back to teaching, I mean. Because I think it is teaching just watching you, I mean you know your Duchamp and you know your Saraswati, uh, some of us are slightly more challenged.
We maybe know one world but not the other so in that respect it's good to get that kind of translation. Um, and I have two questions, because I think even though you, it's extremely broad and on the one hand you have the feeling every year you have been re-inventing yourself. Um, I had the feeling there are two things which come back and I would be interested because somehow I feel they might be related.
One is the skull which we see and the other one is your allusion to Albrecht Durer which is not just there because it's your name but you use his sign tag. So something very looking very far back - and I think also the skull is really medieval background and I would be very interesting on how is that - how you see the importance for you today and for the art today.
Atul: Sure ... Talking and sharing with them. So then I was in Trichur in Kerala, I was in Vallabh Vidyanagar in Gujarat, so almost four-five universities and students you know where I go and kind of talk. And that I often do and I enjoy that I feel. And I feel you know it is my responsibility that to, because I realise that art school often, I still remember my days at school, art school, and I had lot of fight with my teachers.
And unfortunately the teachers at art schools are quite mediocre. I would notice here also, here in the sense I mean in India. So I feel the students are like a lump of clay and teachers can mould them but that's not happening. So can you believe? Like I was in J.J. and I passed out in '82, so '82, that means almost like ... but why when I was in art school, I was thinking like why artists write their name on the front.
You know there's always you'll see some signature in the corner or some, even Picasso signed and everybody signs. I said some don't sign but some works on paper they sign. So I was wondering that basically signing is what, you write your own name on the front of work. But when you have done a work itself, that itself is signature, then what's the - so I, I never understood or followed.
So but if still I have to write, so I've done a sign - station sign - where Atul is written kind of a thing, in '84. But then, so it was direct written, you know, that's the subject, written thing. And then I found that this A.D. of Albrecht Durer is, is best. So whether I'm talking about Albrecht Durer, whether I'm talking about just a logo, a sign, A and D, or about the time, or about it's my signature, so I play with that. I mean, sometimes it comes as my signature, sometimes I'm talking about Durer, so it's quite loose, there is no specific this thing.
Skull came in during the works when cabinets happened. And cabinets have original bone and stuff like that and it just, it was chance. You know many things I have not you know actually conceived with a clear clarity. That's what the fun is about art. That one of my neighbour's daughter, she was doing medicine and she finished and she had - I said you give it to me. And she said no I'm supposed to return it, I said don't return to some fellow student or something you give it to me.
So I paid 1,500 rupees, I just got it. But then I didn't know what to do with that. And I mean of course all these things were happening '92 riots and violence you know, all these things were there and somehow you know I was thinking about the cabinets and I thought I would put bones and all. Then I took a kind of moulds and mini-skulls in fibreglass and guilded them in gold leaf and all, so that was coming.
And alread I had done this series called 'Tearscape' where the women - skeletal women - are sitting and you know so inside the bones were painted with acrylic and heavy marble dust like a fossilised kind of textured and kind of thing. So it was already there and...
Man in audience: and stacked one above the other and -
Atul: What was stacked?
Man in audience: Coins, coins! Loose coins one above the other. Just wanted your explanation on these three.
Atul: No I was not going much more in details of many images ... Peace in the centre, like a kind of backbone, it's actually work by a Romanian artist who lived in France called Brancusi.
And he did this sculpture called 'Endless Column' and up, you know my sister and her two son, they are located. And you mean Mother India the actress, na, the film? And Nargis. Yeah yeah, holding the plough. And I mean, it's too personal, but let me tell you that when Naina, my sister, when she was young and you know what happened due to pituitary glad tumour, you know the bones were growing inside the skull and you know, can you imagine what happened, the whole body bones if they grow.
And you know she was beautiful, we actually used to call her Nargis, her face was like that. And after the disease, you know, she become like a kind of almost like a nigress. All face everything was swollen, dark, you know, hairy, all that. So. And, the specific film, Mother India, is about the struggle of the lady with two son, if you know the story of Mother India. It was a very very painful life and you know poverty and the villain and all that.
So I think it was I combined. But I must tell you that it was a big big dilemma. I said you know I am talking about my sister's illness and you know, I know what's going through and all, and how can you take an image which has a - one should do it or not? But you know I - I thought - don't be sentimental or anything. What is important for a work of art - do it. And I kind of, you know, I did.
So that is one thing. Gandhi was upside down because, you know, as I was telling you the Gandhian philosophy is totally - we don't see today. So I said you know like, he is walking on the Juhu beach, but I painted it upside down and the whole series was monochrome in sepia tone - brown amber - except for the inset kind of a shape you know where the monkey and the two cats and you know where he divides, is supposed to do the justice for the cake, but he eats the whole thing.
That was the only colourful thing in the whole series. So I thought it should be, Gandhi should be upside down in front of this monkey. Then the third one is the coin, the again you know, the - I was putting the image. And the game of dice, which again was the kind of subject, so the, all that.
Voice on mic: He designed his own covers and he had a very strong visual sense which is evident in his -
Atul: Yes, he was, in fact, one of the best graphic artist in the country -
Voice on mic: Yeah and even Jejuri, you know, even the imagery, is one thing that moves you. So how was his response to seeing his poems as you know, as a painting, as an object, as -
Atul: You know unfortunately, Arun Kolatkar died in 2004 and after that I did all this, so he never saw, but he was familiar with my work and we were very dear friends, so. But he was very very quiet, he would not say anything, you know, like if you say, if I want to give him a catalogue, and if Raghu Dandevati - the other poet whom I you know also depicted - if Raghu is also there and if I also give it to - one catalogue to Raghu and one to Arun ...
... he would say now don't give it to me, you have given to Raghu, I can also share with him. So he would not, you know, he was that kind of. And he would, if you ask him what do you think of some other poet or some other writer, what do you think of my work, he would nod. He was very, he would not say much. But he was quite open about various other aspects to talk and discuss and all.
About you know, something strange word he must have read somewhere, which is Egyptian or maybe something from Greek. Then he would go into the deep root of that word. That kind of a study, that kind of interest he had. But one could make out, you know, with a glance and look which one gets sometimes from a friend -
Voice on mic: Towards your work?
Man in audience: ... Richter, if we take these three artists as an example, even Joseph Beuys, all these artists have extreme emphases on paint as a material itself. And also Joseph Beuys on the material quality and all that, and also I think you referred saying that we missed out a lot of originals by being students. Everything, every work became flat. So I think there is a sense of flatness which you have celebrated throughout your journey of painting but in the earliest paintings I see, probably when you respond to Hockney, when there is a celebration of paint in your work.
And then it comes back, I mean this Malevich series, and in the watercolours which you said, you know, which are very personal. So what are the challenges you have felt? Did you ever feel paint on its own, you know, like not with an image, paint on its own as a material, to celebrate it or to kind of indulge in paint itself, not as an image?
Was there any such moment or what is your relation with -
Atul: Are you - okay, no no, in fact I feel you see, because also you know of course very well, but as others also would know that I come from a generation where the painting was the main thing was happening. And I think the kind of works are done by artists like Tyeb Mehta, S.H. Raza, V.S. Gaitonde, F.N. Souza, Ramakumar, I think these are all fantastic paintings, I would say definitely.
I mean of course we say that they are heavily influenced by the French aesthetics and masters from Paul Clay and Picasso and Matisse, but you know that's okay, but the kind of quality which one sees, that I actually miss in many of my contemporaries. And I personally feel that early time you know, like applying paint, that lifting that you know that whole paste and just applying that itself is such a joy, but in between many other things happened.
And I was into image in a big way, so a lot of paintings become flat. Then a lot of other things with politics and a whole lot of other things, shutters came and different kind of watercolours came, all that, but now in fact, at the moment I am very much involved with sheer you know oil applying and all, and I always enjoyed heavy thick paint, so in fact I was thinking that like, I would like to do a large-scale mural on wall, just using cement.
So do the drawing, carve it on the wall itself and actually apply cement, you know. Then like Motherwell the blocks which you saw, something like that. But that's a different kind of work and different kind of feeling, but within oil painting, within the you know kind of area of painting, I feel that there are still possibilities but it's more challenging. Because the way very easily we were doing 20 years back, the same thing has become very difficult now.
One has already done also, in a big way, but because time has changed, you know, and of course one is not painting in a vacuum or in a you know ivory tower. I personally believe and I feel for me my viewer is extremely important. I love to share, I love to talk, even if you know when I am alone in the studio, then a person who you know, people are responding to different kind of art, I felt and as if this is passe, or this is old.
You know, the talking about pigment or applying paint in a certain way? So I'm thinking now it's a challenge, ki how to take it, work, which has what I want to do it, at the same time it has a total new thing in it, to revive and revitalise the - I mean, who am I to kind of do that but you know, I think there is this somewhere subconsciously I feel that how one can do that.
Applying paint in a certain way. I mean, of course, the great Gerhard Richter is working Basel it's (skipped) then I will just go and do it you know, because I'm very, you know, I mean - no, nothing talk, just see and you know, feel and enjoy and no big philosophy and social political. Sometimes I feel there is too much of all this, you know, narration and stories and issues, but I think that's me and that's also part of me, so.
Man in audience: Can you talk about your last show in Vadera, when you start (unclear) to the art market -
Atul: You mean the dealer's portrait? No? No, the Malevich matters. Yeah, no, actually, you know, more than the market, because when the essay was written by Ranjit Hoskote, well ... for a long time, he came up with this thing, that there is a market thing in this, you know, the shutters. Actually I was not really interested in market or talking about market, but I was talking about:
Say, um, there is a shutter, and on the shutter, on the street there is graffiti, there is something is written, something is pasted on it, it's been torn, all that. So I said if I have to do my, I have to go and paste something or I have to say something, I would probably go for artistic references and other things. And actually to paint Picasso 'Weeping Woman' or a Maria Theresa portrait, it's just because those paintings, I like it.
And as a young boy I used to simply copy, you know, Van Gogh's 'Sunflower', or Van Gogh's self-portrait, because that is you know, that is, I was enjoying. So actually again all about eyes and the shutter, like, when I close my eyes and when I open it, so it's like kind of shutter opening, closing kind of a thing. That was one of the first work to complete in that series.
So it's more on those kind of a thing. And yeah, the painting like Malevich and you know other artist like ... but those who doesn't know, it doesn't mean that they are not eligible for these works - they have a different way of looking at it. So we had in Saurashtra, like in this kind of Vachana poets and all, in Gujarat, Saurashtra also there were saint-poets in 16th century and 18th. They were writing something which were sometimes for general public.
They were about spirituality and divinity and enlightenment and all. But the way it was written, then the close devotees, they would read something else also in that. And then there are the very intimate, you know, close people, they would say something else, so I said you know, if you have
... he created a kind of iron which is completely rusted so it's kind of a red form, so I, choosing that and not choosing something else, that has logic which I know. It works with very very inner logic, and I have to be absolutely tuned with these things. And if I myself don't know, so what I have to do research. I mean I don't do that kind of a - I don't read and do lot of thing, but whatever - regarding that area I go and find out.
Like that one of the painting which has called - in marriage series - 'Family Tree'. My parents and myself, in between there is a - I mean, you know, so these are all - it's fun you know to kind of find out and study and research, you know. You get some knowledge and, but this kind of thing is very different from a theorist and you know, those who are, has a very sharp brain and (laughs) brilliant mind and all. This is - this is just painter's play.
Evelyn: I think we could keep on playing
Atul: Yeah, it's eight thirty -
Evelyn: But maybe just one last sentence if you just keep us in mind
Atul: Okay (skipped)
Evelyn: Um, thanks a lot for that really, I don't know, engaging talk and I think we are all looking forward to your either abstract conceptual comic graffiti kind of whatever life you're going to have in the next years and possibly there will be another talk maybe ten years down the line here and we can see what else came to the collection.
Atul: It's been a pleasure, thank you so much.