In his latest collection of works, artist Atul Dodiya turns his canvas into a blackboard to tell Gujarati literateur Labhshanker Thaker's fictional tale, in which he finds echoes of his own boyhood
The child-like handwriting on canvas offsets the stark black background.
The playful banter between Bapu (aka Mahatma Gandhi) and the young boy Bako veils several telling comments on the society we live in.
Each painting included in the show portrays
an episode from Labhshanker Thaker's story
Even to a person who does not possess an intimate understanding of art, Atul Dodiya's latest show, titled 'Bako Exists. Imagine', creates an instant connect.
Based on Labhshanker Thaker's 'Bako Chhe. Kalpo', Dodiya's show includes 12 blackboard paintings and an installation.
Each canvas includes episodes from the Gujarati poet-author's book, which is a fictional account of conversations between a young boy and the Father of the Nation.
By using the blackboard as a motif, Dodiya's paintings manage to retain the innocence of their chatter through trailing sentences and imagery that does not illustrate, but sets the mood, instead. "The story is narrated by a 12-year-old boy.
Therefore, the handwriting on the canvas is also of a primary-school level. The episodes don't talk about things like corruption, violence or independence, yet they are subtle comments on our society," says the award-winning artist.
With 'Bako Exists. Imagine', Dodiya continues his portrayal of Gandhi on canvas. The exhibition, An Artist Of Non Violence, showcased in 1999 at Chemould, was also inspired by the freedom fighter. "Over the years, Gandhi has been a recurrent and consistent thought, image, concept and form in my works," he agrees.
Apart from the paintings, the show also includes an autobiographical installation piece titled Meditation (With Open Eyes). A 40-feet wide teak wood and glass cabinet holds memorabilia, paintings, sculptures and photographs collected by Dodiya over several years.
"The cabinets are similar to what one might find inside memorial museums or small-town institutes, which are used for storing trophies, awards and certificates," explains the Ghatkopar-based artist.
The installation is also connected to Bako's story, because the artist sees himself as the young boy. "Ever since I was a boy I wanted to be an artist.
This cabinet includes various images and references, my favourite writers and objects that have been with me through my life. There is a complex juxtaposition of various works," he says.
The show opens on September 10 (preview night) and is on till October 20. At Chemould Prescott Road, Queens Mansion, third floor, G Talwatkar Marg, Fort.
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