The world is not enough

Artist couple Anju and Atul Dodiya will share their tales of the art world and their respective creative journeys

June 10, 2016 07:59 am | Updated October 18, 2016 02:40 pm IST

The journey of a creative mind is influenced by a spectrum of emotions that either stem from everyday occurrences or introspection. Often, external interventions like cinema, theatre, poetry, or work by peers could strike a note within the artist. And so an artwork is born.

The theory that every thought is provoked by conversation is innate in the works of artists Anju and Atul Dodiya, who began their career in the early 1980s.

In their talk, ‘Every Journey has a story,’ at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS), the artist couple will share their tales of the art world through audiovisual presentations, followed by a question and answer session.

The talk will give deeper insights into ‘The Journey is the Destination,’ an ongoing exhibition at the Jehangir Nicholson Art Foundation (JNAF) that is also housed at the CSMVS.

The exhibition showcases past and present works of the Dodiyas and their peers Nalini Malani, Sudhir Patwardhan, Sunil Gawde, Vivan Sundaram and Zarina Hashmi. Since their previous and current works are placed side by side, visitors are exposed to the transitions of these artists as their work adapted along with a constantly evolving society.

While Atul has made his place as one of the most versatile artists, experimenting with realism, social and political topics, text-based works, and incrporating poetry into his paintings, Anju is more a believer in exploring the internal self, often through paintings, sketches, or installations that are achingly melancholic.

Atul says, “Through the talk we hope to discuss how one engages with oneself through creativity impulses. For instance, I’ll be talking about how cinema plays a large role in influencing my art.” For Atul, the impact that cinema leaves on its viewer is the kind of impact that he wants to invoke through his artwork. While he believes that form in his painting is important, the real magic lies in the underlying narrative, and the story it spins.

“What I’ve learnt from masters like Satyajit Ray, and Federico Fellini is the control of emotion, dealing with human perception,” he says. “I’d like to create the kind of narrative that cinema builds, and find ways in which the viewer can engage with my painting for longer than a minute, which is sometimes substantial.”

He yearns for audience engagement where the visitor experiences joy, confusion, and sometimes even takes offence to the piece.

Anju’s tryst with art began when she joined the J.J. School of Art in the 1980s and experimented with various media through the foundation course. Three months in, and she was sure she wanted to take up painting as a profession. Hailing from a business family, she was initially clouded by thoughts of being financially independent and hence studied commerce for two years. But then the realisation struck that this wasn’t a field she found liberating, and so began her journey as an artist.

“At the school, I focused more on semi-abstract collages, even though our course was more figurative-based,” she says. “However, when I graduated, I had the urge to explore figures, and often go back to abstraction. So I’d say my journey has often gone through the paring down, focusing on simplicity, and freeing myself from the urge to constantly narrate. Chronologically, I’ve gone backwards and then forwards, there’s no fixed pattern.”

The couple’s personalities and artworks are poles apart: Atul is more of an extrovert; Anju leans towards being an introvert. Since Atul grew up in a chawl in Ghatkopar, and painted in the veranda, he is used to his neighbours peeking into his work, engaging in conversation regarding its impact, and watching his creative process come to life. Anju, on the other hand, works in complete isolation and solitude, often reluctant to share her work immediately.

Anju says, “Even though we’re very different personalities, our views on perceiving art are the same, but what we do with it is dissimilar. While Atul goes and grabs everything out there, I play with the inner world that’s dark and linear. But he influences me in a way that he’s bold and fast with his decision-making, he believes that why not paint today what you’re going to do next week? So we’re complementary to one another.”

The inspiration to create requires focus and determination to complete a work.

Atul’s daily ritual is visiting his office from 10.30 a.m. to 7.30 p.m. every day. He is surrounded by his painting material, books, and unfinished works that all play a role in the process of creation. He enjoys reading the biographies of Pablo Picasso, Henry Matthews, and Philip Guston, because it’s the joy he experiences through their art that inspires his own. “Picasso inspires me because he took such risks, and went through such hardships for his art, and I’m always striving to achieve that quality in my work. I realise that while painting, you don’t take decisions consciously, your creation is a manifestation of the world around you.”

While Anju describes her own work as emotional theatre at the edge of something that hasn’t quite happened yet, she defines Atul’s as densely packed and layered since he approaches art like an adventurer.

Anju sahys his work can be compared to artist Robert Rauschenberg’s quote, ‘I’m afraid I will run out of world.’

It’s a good thing then that there’s a fairly large amount of it yet left to explore.

‘Every Journey has a Story,’ 6 pm CSMVS, Fort.

The author is a freelance writer

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