Bapu in Three Voice
August 12, 2022 – September 12, 2022
Artworks in Exhibition
Mahatma Gandhi continues to be an icon, inexhaustible and ever inspiring, for visual imagination like the Buddha and Christ. In the later part of his life and in 74 years after he was assassinated, major and minor artists have painted and sculpted, created photomontages etc. relating to his lean body, the half-naked faqirness as Winston Churchill called him, his lathi, spectacles, chappals, charkha etc. The image making of Gandhi has never stopped. There are episodes from his life, incredibly transparent for a public figure, that seem to have the same magical fascination as episodes from the life of the Buddha and Christ. In contemporary India there are well orchestrated attempts to degrade and devalue, humiliate and condemn him. But he remains unsullied, above the muddy politics, the brutal violence and machinations of our times. A historical figure who refuses to disappear in oblivion and who stands tall above history, almost an eternal presence. In India artists from Nandalal Bose to M.F. Husain, S.H. Raza, Gulam Mohd. Sheikh, Atul Dodiya, Riyas Komu to name a few, have explored both the aesthetic possibilities as well ideational substance of Gandhi, some in realistic ways and some in abstraction.
Like the epic heroes of our great and enduring Mahakavyas, Gandhi left many imprints for the lived life, intense in detail, immense in impact, austere in its aesthetics. The three artists here are engaged in tracing the Gandhian imprints still physically surviving in places, objects, incidents etc. All of these continue to glow with an aura: the Gandhi repertoire of objects-remnants-places-people remains rich and evocative. Each of these artists gives us an impression of Gandhi that we somehow did not know or have missed or have not paid attention to earlier. Happily, these revisitings of the Mahatma do not aim to give us any message. They evoke our memory and guide our imagination into allies of questions and anxieties. They are telling us that there is more to Gandhi than we know and art can be a site of memory that we’ve either lost or are fast losing. They re-enact Gandhi as our racial memory. And also, importantly, as aesthetic possibility.
In contemporary India, there are again very well-crafted attempts to spread amnesia. You are being encouraged to forget what happened, you are overwhelmed to remember what never happened! Art is a bulwark of conscience and memory against this fast-spreading amnesia. The three artists are reaffirming that in such dreadful times art is resistance to forgetting and is memory that needs rehabilitation and animation. Art could be a counter-chronicle of our times. These evocative works are notes towards such a human and humanising chronicle. Theodor W. Adorno’s words are well worth recalling: ‘The forms of art register the history of humanity with more justice than do historical documents’.