FRIEZE LONDON: Atul Dodiya: View From Dockyard Road

The Regent's Park, London, 12 - 16 October 2022 
A7

Mumbai-based artist Atul Dodiya’s oeuvre nurtures complex arrangements of socio-political, cultural and art history, often by juxtaposing 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. Dodiya’s compositions explore our relationship with the world in a causative manner, with myth-like explanations for experiences and events that can be poetic or aggressive.

 

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. Moreover, Dodiya regards materiality with the twin eye of heritage and commerce. His early experiences of watching his father, a civil contractor, manage labourers and construction materials, inspired his experimental outlook on how to bring various materials from life into an aesthetic fold. In the nineties, a series of riots in and around Mumbai resulted in a pervasive shut-down of life and negotiation in an otherwise bustling city; to Dodiya, the repeated visuals of closed-down shop shutters served as an emotional affront, as misgivings of power and progress, otherwise an expression of small-town business and routine, which he intensifies with colloquial images from poetry, cinema and social observations, alongside references to the Indian and Western art worlds. He became interested in exploring the depth of the surface of planes through Rauschenberg-like “combines” of intention and form.
 
View from Dockyard Road is a much-awaited series of small-scale painted shutters, constructed from galvanized steel, mounted with framed photographs and using epoxy putty as a material of healing and restoration. Each shutter tells a story in coded symbolism, with an overall shrine-like presence that pins down the hopes and anxieties of the everyday citizen local. Dodiya’s pole sculptures originate from navigational markers around the city, as sites of exchange donning advertisements, stickers, phone numbers and graffiti, which become circular pilgrimages for  whom these signs lose meaning for generalization. These three-dimensional works embody a painter’s vision, remaining concerned with the conveyance and communication of truths, self and otherwise, through a combination of abstraction and narrative imagery. Dodiya’s broad collection of visualizations, including references to Romanian artist Constantin Brânçusi’s “endless column”, poems by the Sufi poet Hafez, legendary Indian actress Devika Rani, figurations by Indian artist Bhupen Khakhar and American artist Jasper Johns, among others, explore the disjuncture and perpetuation of culture and social thought in a large and disjointed country such as India, whose cosmopolitan cities like Mumbai possess layers of metaphors for the human condition.
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