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Culture Cheat Sheet | Atul Dodiya's Retrospective at NGMA

Amisha posted on 17 December

By Amisha Chowbey

It’s that time of the year again, when some of India’s finest artists’ works are let loose in the Delhi art circuit. Having followed the works of Atul Dodiya in the past and having explored his latest exhibit, I can say that he is indeed a treat for all looking for an exposure to art - Indian and otherwise. His current exhibit is a display of retrospective works, curated by Ranjit Hoskote and on display at the National Gallery of Modern Art. When it comes to Atul Dodiya, you can be assured  a canvas loaded with references to Euro-American art, with a desi twist of course.

What sets Dodiya apart, according to me, is that he’s not one to make you stare at a blank canvas with paint sprawled in weird patterns. He’s that fun artist, who will take you on a tour around the world, with images you may have seen before; shutters that go up and down at your command and are laced with a tinge of humor. You would probably have already seen the references in his works at some point; he just turns the perspective downside up!

Now you could walk around aimlessly at NGMA… or you could use our cheat-sheet to decode the workings of Dodiya’s art on display! I’ve picked 5 of my favourite pieces from the exhibit, and laid out an easy to follow code guide for you. Follow the lead, and you’ll be good to go… like a pro!

1. Gangavataran | After Raja Ravi Varma {1998}

The Code | Raja Ravi Varma and Marcel Duchamp; the Dodiya way

PicMonkey Collage{Left: Gangavataran by Raja Ravi Varma | Right: Gangavataran After Raja Ravi Varma {1998} by Atul Dodiya}

Raja Ravi Varma was the first true Indian artist, complete with the quirks. Atul Dodiya re-paints his beautiful religious oleograph {an oil painting made accessible by printing}, replacing the descending Ganga, which conveniently turns into notorious French artist Marcel Duchamp’s painting titled Nude descending a staircase No.2 {1912}.


2. Between the Spider and the Lamp {Triptych} {2013}

The Code | Cabinets of curiosity, meet India’s art Stalwarts

82 - 2013 Between the Spider and the Lamp{Between the Spider and the Lamp {Triptych},2013: Installation with 3 wooden cabinets {treated with polyester putty and zinc powder} with photographs, sculptures, paintings and found objects.

These three cabinets of curiosity bring together almost three decades worth of items collected. Photographs of masters of Indian Art - we have the likes of Hussain, Raza and Souza - adorning the top of the cabinet, and a sketch by Tyeb Mehta on the left-most cabinet. Amongst other things, you can spot a dusty typewriter, an ancient watch and even an Artist's exhibition catalog from years ago - mostly forgotten things from simpler times.


3. 26/11 {2012}

The Code | ‘Scream’

scream-atul-dodiya-26-11{Left: Scream, Edvard Munch | Right: 26/11, Atul Dodiya}

Our favorite shutter-work from the display: On the closed shutter, you will see an enormous black and white version of the famous Scream, a painting by the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch. Be sure to fiddle with the shutters in order to reveal the mysteries beneath. We promise the guard won't escort you out!

PS: Go looking for the Scream in one of the cabinets as well!


4. Survivor Noakhali, 1946 and The Old Guitarist {detail} Pablo Picasso, 1903

The Code | The Picasso quotient

008 Survivor Noakhali, 1946{Left: ‘Survivor Noakhali, 1946’, 2013, by Atul Dodiya |  Right: ‘The Old Blind Guitarist’ {detail}, 1903, Pablo Picasso}

The latest body of works, the Gandhi series, is a collection of painted photographs and photographed paintings {and sculptures}. Out of all the artsy references, when we spot a Picasso, there is an unsaid attraction. Next to our very own Mahatma Gandhi is a cropped close up of Picasso’s early works titled The Old Guitarist. There are more Picasso references to watch out for, as you walk through this segment.

Need help? Pick up the reference sheet at the start of the walk {entrance of the room} and you'll get to see a lot more art than you bargained for!


5. Angelina {2006}

The Code | The Brangelina debut

Angelina{Angelina, 2006}

This absolutely hilarious canvas {from 2006} takes a dig at the clashing egos in marital heaven. The portrait is of the artist’s wife and in the background is a reproduction of Pop artist Roy Lichtenstein’s work titled the Drowning Girl. Cleverly enough, in the speech bubble Atul Dodiya highlights his initials in the word “Brad” and with a stroke of genius hints at a “24×7” battle. Dragging in the Jolie-Pitt mania that took over the world, he titles this one Angelina, extending his sympathies. Wonder what the wife had to say!


Notes in our Little Black Book |

The National Gallery of Modern Art plays host to a display of retrospective works by Atul Dodiya, a fun artist whose canvases have come to be known for their  references to Euro-American art, with a desi twist. LBBD's cheat sheet fast tracks the exhibit for you.

Exhibition | Experiments with truth: Atul Dodiya, Works 1981-2013; Curated by Ranjit Hoskote

Venue | National Gallery of Modern Art, on the India Gate circle

Timings | 10 am to 5 pm; closed on Monday


About the Author | Amisha Chowbey is an art-lover-turned-writer, interacting with artists for experience-based features, working towards restoring the fading sensitivity towards artworks. She lives and works in New Delhi.

Image credits for Atul Dodiya's work: Vadehra Art Gallery