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Home > Mumbai Guide News > Things To Do News > Article > Honouring Gogi Saroj Pal with a month of tribute at Taj Mahal Palace Colaba

Honouring Gogi Saroj Pal with a month of tribute at Taj Mahal Palace, Colaba

Updated on: 03 July,2024 09:05 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Shriram Iyengar | shriram.iyengar@mid-day.com

A month-long retrospective will pay homage to the vast and complex nature of the late Gogi Saroj Pal’s works that reshaped modern Indian feminism through traditional images

Honouring Gogi Saroj Pal with a month of tribute at Taj Mahal Palace, Colaba

Being a Woman, oil on canvas, 1984. Pics Courtesy/DAG

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Like the mythical figures dominating her canvases, the late Gogi Saroj Pal embodied many facets for her friends and acquaintances. This weekend, DAG will open a retrospective titled Gogi Saroj Pal: Mythic Femininities with a walkthrough exhibition that offers an insight into this complex artist whose oeuvre influenced Indian modernism.


(From left) Kamdhenu, 1995; gouache and metallic paint on paper
(From left) Kamdhenu, 1995; gouache and metallic paint on paper



“For someone who delighted in calling herself a bully, she was a sweet, diminutive and petite woman,” recalls Kishore Singh, senior vice president, DAG. He has shared a close working relationship with the artist since 2011 — when the gallery hosted her solo exhibit Gogi Saroj Pal: The Feminine Unbound. “She had a very genial personality. She would always be the one to reach out, make phone calls, maintain relationships with everyone; from her students to fellow artists and friends,” he points out. Yet, she had a fighting spirit. “She was born into a family of freedom fighters. One of her inspirations was her grandmother who refused to wear a veil as a mark of protest. This strong stance influenced her [Gogi], and she embodied it through her practice,” Singh informs us.


Kishore Singh with the artist’s sculpture, I Will Draw My Own Laxman Rekha, in the backgroundKishore Singh with the artist’s sculpture, I Will Draw My Own Laxman Rekha, in the background

While the vast collection on display ranges across six decades of the artist’s work, the highlights remain the artist’s female protagonists — nayikas, kinnaris, hath-yoginis and kamdhenus. “She borrows these mythological figures, and raises questions about patriarchy,” Singh says. While the traditional nayikas in the Kangra, Rajput and Pahari schools of art are portrayed in the context of longing, or in wait for their lovers, Gogi Saroj Pal’s nayikas are ‘self-contented’, he notes. “These figures rarely look out of the image or confront or engage with the viewer. They have an internal gaze.” The Kamdhenu, he says, is another iteration of the idea: “The mythology [of Kamdhenu] is about fulfilling the hunger and needs of nations; nobody asks the Kamdhenu itself what she wanted.”

Artist Madhavi Parekh takes in the exhibition at Delhi in AprilArtist Madhavi Parekh takes in the exhibition at Delhi in April

Pal brought to these traditional and cultural stereotypes a sensitive feminism. “For her, feminism was about choices and patriarchy. She believed that nature has devised women in such a way that it has given her certain roles that she cannot escape. What she does therefore, is raise questions,” Singh shares. While the artist had previously approached the subject of the marginalisation in works like the Young Monks series, and of women in the Mandi series, it was the unfortunate passing of her son that moved something. Singh adds, “It is then that she went back to her roots to nurture herself to understand what being a woman is all about. That is when her nayikas, kinnaris and kamdhenus emerge.”

Relationship, oil on canvas, 1980
Relationship, oil on canvas, 1980

The current retrospective was actually conceptualised while the artist was still living. “Rarely do I get a chance to dedicate two independent exhibitions entirely to a single artist. Gogi Saroj Pal: Mythic Femininities has been in development since the beginning of 2023, and all of us within the organisation wanted Gogi to be the centre of the exhibition when we opened our doors. But the threads of destiny had other plans, and we lost the artist on January 27, hardly two months before the planned inauguration,” shares Ashish Anand, CEO and MD, DAG. The Mumbai retrospective is the second edition following the one in Delhi earlier this year.

Gogi Saroj Pal
Gogi Saroj Pal

Among the works shown will also be the large sculptures of hath-yoginis and Kalis created in her last decade. In addition to the exhibits, there will be the eponymous book with contributions from authors Roobina Karode, Urvashi Butalia, as well as the late artist’s husband, Ved Nayar and family to be dedicated as an homage.

Singh concludes, “She belongs to that early batch of women artists who, as a group, came to the forefront demanding a space in public arenas. Every one of them has a distinctive language, and within them, Gogi took up a unique position as someone whose artworks are recognisable. She brought in elements of modernism with tradition that became a potent voice for Indian art around the world.”

From July 6 to August 17; 11 am to 7 pm (except Sundays) 
AT DAG, The Taj Mahal Palace, Apollo Bunder, Colaba.

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