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‘Pale Ancestor’, a series of recent watercolors works by Atul Dodiya

One of India's most prolific and prominent contemporary artists, Atul Dodiya and so also his art is affected a great deal by reality. The artist has once stated: "It's impossible to close your eyes to the world around you, however much you try." At most times, a pluralist and fragmentative mood dominates his compositions, with his images telling stories as he goes along divulging his artistic intentions. Rendered in bold realism and drawing on pop art iconography, his work reveals his attempt to go back to his roots.

'Pale Ancestors' - his latest series of 48 watercolors ' being showcased at Bodhi Art Gallery, is a lyrical, subtle body of works that transports the viewer into a completely different lexicon; sometimes simple, sometimes an elaborate maze that one must navigate.

Known for his watercolors and installations, which reflect the artist's tremendous skill and intellect, Atul Dodiya now returns to the seemingly simplistic technique seen in his earlier series titled Bodywash. The artist draws from a multitude of references for his series 'Pale Ancestors' (on view at Bodhi, Mumbai till first week of May 2008). The idea for the watercolor series was born out of a trip to Bali in 2005, where the idea of the series took shape, and was eventually materialized when the artist was on vacation in Singapore, and completed early this year in Mumbai.

An introductory note mentions: 'The journey of constructing 'Pale Ancestors' is reflected in the 48 works, all paper with pale washes, recognized by an image and a word, sometimes derived from Atul Dodiya's personal memories, and sometimes, from images, moments and events that figure in world history.

'Together, each work becomes part of the artist's personal lexicon: a series of references, meanings and metaphors that hold personal significance, and yet allow the viewer to form multiple interpretations, or use the artist's (interpretations).'

Atul Dodiya completed his BFA (Diploma) in Painting from the J.J. School of Art (1982). The turning point in his career came with his trip to the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris between 1991 and '92. He saw paintings from the early Renaissance onward to modern times, and wondered how his work could begin to measure up to the masters. He learnt to see things differently, not merely to create within a context, but to create a context.

The artist has participated in 'The Richness of the Spirit' Kuwait and Rome (1986-89), 'India - Contemporary Art' World Trade Center, Amsterdam (1989), 'Exposition Collective' Cite Intemationale Des Arts, Paris (1992), and many other prestigious shows. He came into prominence in 1999 with his series on Mahatma Gandhi, where the painter sought to reconstruct images from a forgotten biography of the leader. He was India's flag-bearer, so to say, at the latest Documenta that is counted among the world's most famed and most prestigious art events.

While bearing subtle references to his earlier Bodywash works, the paintings in 'Pale Ancestors' focus consistently on softer shades and a minimalist approach. Apparent images of violence, as in the works Beirut and Hunter, are distilled to almost impersonal, isolated images that appeal with their simple strokes, yet convey the complexity of the idea that either is drawn out from.

If in his earlier works the viewer is awed at the slew of popular culture images or mythological references in every single painting, 'Pale Ancestors' is a departure from the imagery and the language that has become so inherent in Atul Dodiya's work.

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