Onboard The SS Rajputana, 1931
signed, dated, inscribed and titled '20 / ATUL DODIYA / 'On board of SS Rajputana, / 1931' / - 2013 / Oil on canvas / 20 x 20 inch' (on the reverse) left; signed, dated, inscribed and titled '20 / ATUL DODIYA / - 2013 / 'Composition' / - Piet Mondrian, 1936 / - Archival digital print on hahnemuehle bamboo paper / - 20 x 13 1/2 inch' (on the reverse) right
oil on canvas, digital print on paper
19 1/2 x 19 5/8 in. (49.5 x 49.8 cm.) left; 19 1/2 x 13 1/8 in. (49.5 x 33.3 cm.) right
Painted in 2013
Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 2013
G. Gupta, 'The 'Dadagiri' of Atul Dodiya', DNA, 1 December 2013 (illustrated)
‌A. Anzi, 'Abstraction De-Constructed through the Lens of Post-Colonialism', ACAW Field Review 1: South Asia, 2016 (illustrated)
New Delhi, National Gallery of Modern Art, Experiments with Truth: Atul Dodiya, Works 1981-2013, 15 November - 29 December, 2013

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Lot Essay

Atul Dodiya “excels in juxtaposing popular culture with cinematic and literary references. Behind the lyricism and the humour, politics remains one of his core preoccupations. With his dazzling capacity for self-reinvention, Atul Dodiya has worked in a wide array of styles, ever ready to embark on [...] new experiments, from his early photo-realism to his works on metal shutters that sealed his international reputation” (‘Atul Dodiya, Mahatma and the Masters’, Templon online, 2015, accessed July 2022).

The present lot is part of a series of hybrid diptychs called Painted Photographs / Paintings Photographed, in which Dodiya paired oil paintings of historical photographs documenting events in the life of Mahatma Gandhi with photographs of modern Western works of art from around the same time period. In this diptych, the painting portrays Gandhi with a few others on the deck of the ship SS Rajputana, journeying to England to attend the second Roundtable Conference in 1931. The aim of the conference was to bring prominent Indian leaders face to face with British administrators to discuss reforms in India, marking an important development in India’s long struggle for independence from the British. Dodiya pairs this painting with a photograph of a detail of Piet Mondrian’s Composition, painted a few years later in 1936, now in the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

“The figure of Gandhi is central to [Dodiya’s] latest project, which questions the notions of modernity and universalism. [He] establishes a dialogue between two simultaneous moments in history: the fight for Indian independence between 1910 and 1947 and the founding of artistic modernity in Europe. Each work combines an episode of Gandhi’s struggle with contemporary creations from artists such as Picasso, Mondrian and Malevich. The complex fusion of painting and photography challenges the distinction between copy and original, between Eastern and Western tradition” (Ibid., Templon online, 2015, accessed July 2022).

Onboard the SS Rajputana in a heightened monochrome [is] among Dodiya’s best paintings on the dramatic prelude to independence [...] The still frame acquired the urgency of the cinematic and the poignancy of a changing present politics. Dodiya’s invocation of Gandhi complicates what Gandhi himself called the ‘darshan dilemma’, of the ubiquity of his image. In his refusal to let Gandhi rest in the space of the memorial, the monument or the paean to great men, Dodiya returns insistently to the idea of the ethical state and personal freedom. In this way Gandhi becomes the signifier or even the archetype of his own image, mutating and immanent, a ready reckoner of our own troubled times” (G. Sinha, ‘Atul Dodiya’s 7000 Museums: A Project for the Republic of India’, Critical Collective website, 2015, accessed July 2022).

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