Her inner dialogues propel Mumbai-based artist Anju Dodiya’s practice. From her first solo at Chemould Prescott Road in Mumbai in 1991 to the 2009 Venice Biennale, the 50-year-old has drawn influences from early Renaissance masters like Piero della Francesca and Giotto di Bondone to medieval French tapestries, Sylvia Plath’s poetry and Japanese ukiyo-e (woodblock prints and paintings) prints. In her current exhibition “Imagined Immortals” at Delhi’s Vadehra Art Gallery, the two-time Sotheby’s Prize-nominated artist has turned printed pages of a medical illustration book into her canvas. She talks about the dark pull of the mundane, about her interest in world cinema and her family. Excerpts:
This set of work beautifies medical illustrations. It brings together the living and the dead. Drawings of human anatomy are juxtaposed with everything from photographs of roses to fruit trees. How did you manage it?
As a student, I just did collages. As for medical illustrations, I first developed interest in them while looking for Japanese ukiyo-e prints. I came across a book of medical illustrations by a French doctor and immediately knew I had to paint on it. The first time I applied guache on the printed image, it repelled the ink. I let that be. It was a surprise, fun exercise. It is a playful, light approach to the blood, organs and bones, nothing to do with suffering or pain. It reflects the absurdity of life — accepting death and treating it with humour. I first used them in a group exhibition curated by Geeta Kapur, “Subject of Death” in 2013, before this.