Atul Dodiya’s highly anticipated solo show titled ‘Stammer in the Shade’ is an electric presentation of his world-renowned shutters alongside his consistently evolving romance with the solitary figure and landscape in his canvases. Dodiya has long been identified with his practice of adroit quotation from the archives of art history, cinema, popular culture and collective memory, holding his quotations at an affectionate yet critical distance, phrasing them in a deliberately episodic or fragmentary manner or through the mode of montage.
In this show Atul Dodiya offers us a set of shrines. At the (off-)centre of each shrine is one of his painted shutters, each attended by an ensemble of paintings, cut-outs and photographs. Darshan, or epiphany, is an implied experience here, as we wait to see what the shutter will reveal when it rises, except that the darshan has already been granted. In each ensemble are notes from Dodiya’s time-travelling expeditions. He transits between the Gandhian era and the present, zig-zags through the Trecento, looks in at the ateliers of the Rajput miniaturists, and dwells on the modern masters whose work has inspired and provoked him. The darshan invites us also into the private realm of Dodiya’s painterly delight. He works with oil and beeswax to achieve a robust handling of paint; he animates quadrilateral surfaces as well as polygonal cutouts.
Dodiya’s current shrines include some of his photographs of paintings by the great masters, made during his travels around the world – not the entire painting but a portion of the work, while the gaze rests on the edge of a richly gilded or ornamented frame, and on the shadows, sometimes several penumbral strata, that the painting throws on the wall below it. Stammer in the Shade is a deceptively self-deprecatory title. The artist is not, in fact, in the shadow of the masters, nor does the stammer reflect a deficit. By de-focusing and de-centring the masters’ works, he claims them from an oblique angle. By interrupting the standard fluency of language, he revitalizes its raw, dialectal possibilities. This deeply moving body of work is Atul Dodiya’s artistic memoir, taking the form of a katha, a story with nested episodes, sotto voce annotations, and acts of aavartan, the circling of return, recognition, refinement and renewal.