inscribed, titled, dated and signed '7 . ATUL DODIYA / - "Lullaby" / - 2000 / - Watercolour, Acrylic and Marble dust / on paper / - 70" x 45" / - Atul / 2000' (on the reverse)
watercolor, acrylic and marble dust on paper
69 ¼ x 44 ¼ in. (176 x 112.5 cm)
Executed in 2000
Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi
Christie's New York, 31 March 2005, lot 330
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Tearscape: Recent Watercolours by Atul Dodiya, exhibition catalogue, Berlin, 2001 (illustrated, unpaginated) S. Ramaswamy, "The Wretched of the Nation", Third Text, Vol. 31, Issue 2-3, November 2017, p. 226 (illustrated)
Berlin, The Fine Art Resource, Tearscape: Recent Watercolours by Atul Dodiya, May - June 2001

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Nishad Avari
Nishad Avari Specialist, Head of Department

Lot Essay

Atul Dodiya is one of India’s most accomplished contemporary artists, with a multifaceted and incisive practice that spans more than four decades. His work looks at the individual in isolation, but also addresses the sociopolitical environment as a whole. Through his mastery of a multitude of media, Dodiya brings the viewer’s focus to the importance of politics, culture, identity, and more specifically post-colonial identity and globalization in relation to the existence of the individual. The present lot is part of a seminal series of “ten startling large-format watercolours collectively titled Tearscape (2001), [in which] Dodiya elaborated a meditation on the postcolonial nation-state, which was at the same time a meditation on the uncertain fate of the citizen, as well as the artist-as-citizen, within it. This trajectory within Dodiya’s work reclaims the Romantic vision of the artist as the unacknowledged legislator of humanity; launched in this direction, Dodiya addressed such extreme conditions as loss and violence, private grief and collective catastrophe” (R. Hoskote, Atul Dodiya, New York, 2014, p. 37).

Frequently, the artist underlines the multiplicity of meanings a work of art can carry with touches of irony and humor, citing well-known pieces from the modern Indian and international canons in his paintings and assemblages, or having viewers physically manipulate his works to see them in their entirety. As he notes, “The whole act of seeing or looking at a work of art is so complex. I want […] to make the viewer more conscious of the act of looking […] I am also playing with the absurdity of claiming understanding to any work of art” (Artist statement, P. Nagy, iCon: India Contemporary, India at the 51st Venice Biennale, New York, 2005, p. 9).

Capitalizing on the Post-Modern tendency towards ironic juxtaposition, Dodiya’s works convey complex messages of life in his native country. Executed as painted collages, his works echo the raw graffiti of Jean-Michel Basquiat and reference Kazimir Malevich's Suprematism, while at the same maintaining a skilled handling of paint able to accommodate styles as varied as the photorealism of Gerhard Richter and slick acrylic paintings of David Hockney. With its sepia tones and black fissures, the present lot from his Tearscape series conjures images of a weathered road map or cave painting. Preserving the less than optimistic attitude established in his well-known series on Mahatma Gandhi, Lullaby offers a haunting allegory of life in India. Its sardonic pairing of the fetus and the skull reminds the audience of the indissoluble bond between life and death, while crude crosses act as both religious symbols and mythical markers of a lost treasure. The chain of hanging skulls becomes a macabre torana, while the baby attached to the umbilical cord is meant to represent hope and the potential for a better future.

"Dodiya has never been afraid of the grand themes: in his paintings he has repeatedly addressed the questions of the national and the modern, autobiography and the future of painting. He defines these abstract nouns through well-honed verbs, however, and locates their import in the particularity of detail, the irreducible enigma of the singular image" (R. Hoskote, Tearscape: Recent Watercolours by Atul Dodiya, Berlin, 2001, unpaginated).

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