Atul Dodiya, Untitled 2020 - 21, Watercolour on paper
365 days - 365 intimate paintings constitute the recent body of watercolours by Atul Dodiya, painted during a one-year period marked by the crises caused by consecutive waves of COVID Away from his generously sized studio, accommodative of his large canvases and tables strewn with tubes of oil paint and brushes of all sizes, Dodiya worked at a temporary desk-board. Awkwardly placed within the confines of his domestic space, Dodiya painted one watercolour a day in an attempt to preserve his own sanity and artistic composure. Dwelling upon solitude and the compulsions behind forced social isolation, Dodiya subconsciously experienced an inner churn that opened up a new horizon of creative expression and led him to explore the unmeasured space of the pages of his notebooks.
The ever-changing natural environment, unobserved and unattended to in the hurried pace of the everyday, silently made its way into these works, bringing back memory extracts from his six-year ritual of an early morning walk through the park, his tuning in to the rhythms of the ocean waves, observing individuals meditating under a tree or practising a yoga asana. All of these observations manifested as austere, profound images. Dodiya describes the experience as “looking around and noticing the changing colour of the sky from orange to russet, clouds shifting shapes, and vegetation altering its disposition with changing seasons”.
Dodiya returns to primal, basic elements and forms, immersing himself in the creative play between innocence and imagination, addressing nature and its cathartic forces, and perhaps too the solitary figure of an artist’s long-overdue conversation with himself. Confessional at times, evoking Christ’s words in the Garden of Gethsemane or other mythologies associated with the miraculous acts of divine beings, the human figure is caught in moments of self-absorption, retreat and freedom, filled with awe at the infinite stretching of the universe in time and space. In the elevating forms, leisurely moments and acts of being borne on the tide of the unknown, Dodiya reiterates the irrepressible desire for life and perhaps a new dawning of its purpose.
Having mastered several artistic mediums and techniques, Dodiya here expresses a loosening of the mind and brush, oscillating between a precise stain and an amorphous mass, embarking on a mysterious adventure, contorting and abstracting nature-elements and the human body. All of these acts thereby suspend the conscious need for perfection and intention.
Atul Dodiya was born in Mumbai (Bombay), Maharashtra, in 1959. He graduated from the Sir JJ School of Arts, Mumbai in 1982, and later studied at the Ecole des Beaux- Arts, Paris in 1992. Dodiya has had more than thirty-two solo exhibitions in India and abroad. His practice is richly informed by diverse traditions, including Euro-American modernism, French and Gujarati literature, regional traditions and the stories of saints. His most recent shows include Atul Dodiya, Detroit Institute of Arts Museum, 2020; Seven Minutes of Blackmail, Chemould Prescott Road, Mumbai, 2019; The Fragrance of a Paper Rose, Galerie Templon, Paris, 2018; Atul Dodiya | Girlfriends: French, German, Italian, Egyptian, Santiniketan, Ghatkopar, Vadehra Art Gallery, 2017; 7000 Museums: A Project for the Republic of India, Dr Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum, Mumbai, 2014-2015; Is It What You Think? Ruminations on Time, Memory and Site, Kiran Nadar Museum of Art (KNMA), New Delhi, 2014; and Experiments with Truth: Atul Dodiya - Works 1981-2013, National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), New Delhi, 2013. He has been part of several biennials, including the 51st and 58th La Biennale di Venezia. Dodiya is the recipient of several awards, including the Raza Award in 2008; the Civitella Ranieri Foundation Fellowship, 1999; and the Sotheby’s Prize in 1999. The artist lives and works in Mumbai.