Atul Dodiya’s Shutters At Frieze Masters, London

Avant – garde artist Atul Dodiya’s five shutters at Frieze Masters London  are images shaped from images, hand crafted from surprising collocations of pictorial and textual data drawn from diverse sources, surfaces annotated with a copious  archive of references.

Brought to London by Roshini Vadehra of Vadehra Art Gallery, this series that goes as far back as 1999—2000 are bound to make people pause and wonder about the many worlds that inhabit Atul Dodiya’s imagination. One of the pioneers of contemporary Indian art, Dodiya builds bridges between histories of continents. His five shutters reflect multiple references to popular culture, cinema and literature point to an underlying political analysis of the aspirations of the Indian middle class and the impact of globalisation on their traditions.

Broad spectrum of media

These shutters are drawn from a broad spectrum of media, from his early photo-realism to the works on metal shutters that sealed his international reputation. In an interview more than he said: “ I juxtapose the extreme personal and the universal.The challenge for me is finding the balance between what should be concentrated upon and what should be contemplated upon.”

View From Dockyard Road, has  a suite of 5 small-scale painted shutters, constructed from galvanised steel, mounted with framed photographs and using epoxy putty as a material of healing and restoration. According to cultural theorist Ranjit Hoskote, Dodiya’s “seeming flamboyant maximalism is held in productive counterpoint by his awareness of how fragile the production of culture and the records of history are.” This sensitivity is prominent in his suite in which we see an amalgam of  figurative paintings, revisiting feminine portraits as well as abstraction from a wide range of times and places to generate strong emotions.

Mapping citational qualities

These 5 shutters place his evolution in a mapping of  citational qualities , coupled with an extensive exploration of his place within Indian and global contexts so as to reveal that while he identifies distinctly as a citizen of Mumbai, his artistic roots stem from the world at large. In an interview to this critic he stated that these shutters were like shrines. And so each shutter unravels  stories couched  in coded symbolism, with an overall shrine-like presence that pins down the hopes and anxieties of the everyday citizen local.

We also espie an oasis of thoughts and reflections in which there is the nurturing of  complex arrangements of socio-political, cultural as well as  art history anecdotes, that are juxtaposed against  compelling tropes of global and hyper-local significance. He seeks to understand our existential capacity of handling a variety of stimuli simultaneously, gleaning through an encyclopaedic range of past and contemporary archives particularly through the conflicts, ruptures and disconnections of living in urbanity and through history. His general affinity towards the avant-garde is a kind of cultural inheritance, a juggling of various image economies that reveal an interest in sublime experiences through an interplay of form and freedom.

First exhibited at the Tate Modern in London in 2001, Dodiya’s painted shutters are an engagement with questions of security, access and repression, and the dialectics of the conceal–reveal. The idea that hidden elements are contained within plain sight inspires the logic and anti-logic of diverse truths, which Dodiya embraces through a combination of mystery – or conceal – and mysticism – or reveal, shifting his practice from the representational to the allegorical.

In 2010 at an interview in Vadehras in Delhi during one of his early shutter shows he stated: “ I have always tried to create a context in my art. I’ve never been interested in the potential of literalist realism, but I have been attracted to contemporary art that manipulated realist styles.”



Views expressed above are the author’s own.


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