Jyoti Bhatt | Revisitations: Engaging the Archive: D-40 Defence Colony, New Delhi

30 January - 14 March 2024
Jyoti Bhatt’s exhibition will come to his admirers as something of a revelation. A mature career phase showing of small works that bear the imprint of personal relations, ruminations on travels, or complex abstractions, it presents Bhatt with the intimacy of a diarist, and an archivist mining his own vast oeuvre.  
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this series of paintings is the conversation the artist has with himself, dredging up works from the past and revivifying them through the lens of the present, thereby implicating the passage of time and newer stylistic accretions. Bhatt also engages in larger conversations about the environment, signs of aging, and temporality. Certainly, in terms of his visual language, there is enormous variation, borrowing as he does from archaeology, mythology and fantasy, symbols and snatches of song, personal milestones and signifiers of nationhood. What is astonishing in these works is the immense concentration of detail, the firmness of line, and the artist’s sheer pleasure in colour. Dating from about 2005, these works loop into Bhatt’s own archive that goes back to the 1950s, when he was still a student at the Maharaja Sayajirao University (MSU), Baroda. Some draw on Bhatt’s life and early memories with his wife, the ceramist Jyotsna Bhatt. They also refer to trips to different world museums, greeting and wedding cards, portraits, and mirroring as an imagistic device. The interweaving of text, of memory and dream, still lifes, and the play of birds are other threads that keep recurring to reveal Bhatt’s preoccupations and artistic modes.
Much of the exhibition unfolds like a mid-20th century revisitation of idealized village life in Gujarat, untouched by the churn and grind of modern industry in the making. As an artist who won the National Award in 1956 for his images of a pristine rural India, Bhatt reinvokes women harvesting, or bearing matkas in their quest for water, and a cowherd with his buffaloes at a village stream amidst a barren landscape. While these works are marked by a distinct romanticism, Bhatt rapidly absorbed Cubist and later pop elements, integrating with them the rhythms and colours of village life.
Excerpt from Revisitations: Engaging the Archive by Gayatri Sinha