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A new series of works by Atul Dodiya reconstructs and reinterprets history & mythology

Atul Dodiya, after working as artist-in-residence at Singapore Tyler Print Institute (STPI) during Winter 2005 in collaboration with known printmaker Eitaro Ogawa and Richard Hungerford, has come up with a new powerful body of work.

His artist residency at STPI has resulted in the artist delving deep into Indian iconographic traditions and picking up the tale of Sabari, the sage woman from the mythological tale of Ramayana. Of course, this is not the first time that the artist is doing so. Atul Dodiya has stated about his of usage of mythological figures in his works: 'Mythology is a part of popular art. I was interested in popular art, and I wanted to use it in my own art, creatively.'

As an accompanying note mentions: 'Dodiya's Sabari appears as a linear figure, cast in dramatic outline as a long-limbed and many-breasted female, in contrast with Bose's more realistic figuration, drawn from the life. While Bose's young Sabari exudes a raw sensuality, in Dodiya's version she is charged with a discreet eroticism. Dodiya shifts nuances while figuring Sabari: sometimes, she is a sensual mother-goddess with feverish breasts; at other times, she is the nubile dancing girl from the Indus Valley civilization.

Known for his watercolors and his photo-realist oils, he draws heavily on historical influences, which he both accepts and internalizes. The artist has seldom been constricted by a specific style or medium. His work has gone through a process of self-disruption, and an extension into new methods and spaces. Apart from painting, Dodiya has also indulged in the arts of assemblage and sculpture-installation.

Rendered in bold realism and drawing on pop art iconography, Atul Dodiya's work reveals his attempt to go back to his roots. His compositions carry a pluralist and fragmentative mood, and his images tell stories as he goes along. In his visual realm, exemplars and mentors from varied periods and societies speak to each other; he translates these conversations on paper and canvas. In his paintings over the last decade and a half, the artist has plotted such fictitious encounters between Gandhi and Beuys; between Ravi Varma, the father of modern Indian art, and Duchamp.

The artist was noticed after his watercolors on Mahatma Gandhi seven years ago when he sought to reconstruct images from a forgotten biography of the leader. According to him, an artist chooses/decides to paint a character from history because he or she sees a visual potential to create images that will work not only visually but will also say something in a new light to the viewer.

Elaborating on new his metaphor, he has been quoted as saying: 'Sabari could be a mother with her 7 breasts; she could also be the symbol of feminine reflections in a non-sensual way. So I projected her as a lean figure, someone who sits and watches the passage of time and looks at the world of changes. The integration of different sensibilities and aesthetics is critical to my work.'

Dodiya had heard these stories as a child, but his immediate inspiration for his current work is the legendary artist Nandalal Bose's 1941 tempera sequence. Dodiya pays homage to Bose by including the black-and-white reproductions of these iconic works in the form of computer printouts made with archival ink, which form part of his recent pulp work, 'The Fourth Sabari'.

Summing up the spirit of the show, the artist mentions to Uma Nair about his new series: 'I have always believed that art is the result of being willing to explore oneself, life and the meaning of existence, through a chosen medium. Having known the torment of agony, led to an unconscious development of my intuition, and I think this became a part of my reflections on paper and even in my thought process.

'Sabari for me was not just homage to an epic, it was a conscious attempt to free myself of influences through complete rumination and introspection, and it was also the expression of my recurring preoccupation with impermanence and transience. I think my search was for the immortality of Sabari and it was deeper than a mere philosophy.' Atul Dodiya's solo show continues at Bodhi Art Gallery, Delhi till March 31, 2006.

Atul Dodiya's previewed works of in Saffroart catalogue

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