Artist Jyoti Bhatt's Incredible Lifework Receives an 'Overview' in This Vadodara Exhibition

A solo show by Vadodara’s modernist artist Jyoti Bhatt has left art collectors awestruck. Never-before-seen reincarnated digital artworks, photographs and paintings can be witnessed at the Gallery ARK.

When an author writes a book, his content is heavily inspired by his personal experiences. He keeps evolving the subject, plot, central characters and theme while drafting and re-drafting his work. He immerses himself in his book and carves his entire world around it. As intricate and meticulous as an author’s vocation is veteran artist Jyotindra Manshankar Bhatt’s process of painting. His solo show An Overview, at the Gallery ARK at Vadodara, houses 140 original paintings, prints and photographs by the artist, ranging from Bhatt’s 1950s’ vibrant tribal figures to his contemporary artworks in pencil strokes.

Jyoti Bhatt, Pratiti Shah
From Left to Right – Artist Jyoti Bhatt with the show’s curator Pratiti Shah

On the opening day of the show on March 11, the octogenarian shared, “The time I may take to complete a painting is undecided. While there have been instances when I’ve taken over six years to complete a single painting, there have also been times when I’ve created numerous artworks in just a matter of days. My perspective towards my subject is always affected by time. This is where the beauty of my art amplifies.” The humble artist was touched when the day’s conversation made mention of his former mentors from the Faculty of Fine Arts, MS University, “My creations are a manifestation of the teachings of my gurus – N. S. Bendre and K.G. Subramanyan,” he said. “An artist can only learn to make a masterpiece of art if he untiringly shapes and works on his thought process while, all the while, polishing his aesthetics. I was never proud of my work. This helped me to absorb my gurus’ feedback devoid of any ego clashes.”

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The influence of Indian tribal art on his paintings and prints is evident; Signature cubist figures by Jyoti Bhatt portraying emotions of fear and anxiety (1956)

The exhibition contains a plethora of paintings, prints and photographs that occupy separate spaces in the gallery. There are paintings that portray Bhatt’s early inspiration from cubist figurative art. Alongside these are works like his 1950 portrait of a tribal woman, which employ a primitive style. Loud works reminiscent of pop art bear hints of Indianness through their suggestion of tribal motifs. Distinctive emotions are clear as crystal in his paintings – surrounding themes like damaged nationalism, disorienting political scenarios or religion’s awry influences. As a retrospective, the exhibition also includes some of the many photographs taken by Bhatt that have been a significant part of his professional repertoire. Capturing the lives of people in rural and tribal areas, they have an element of creative fantasy, often containing random elements, like the murals or graffiti that we tend to overlook while strolling through by-lanes.

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Photographs captured by artist Jyoti Bhatt

Bhatt has partially lost his eye-sight, but he continues to develop new artworks, still learning and adopting modern tools into his process. 15 of his works, titled as Reincarnation, have been refurbished with a contemporary touch – as digital prints of those of his paintings that have been sold, damaged or lost. These ‘reincarnations’ – developed with the help of subordinates working at his studio who understood his art choices – are being shown for the first time in this exhibition. Not for a second does one feel that these works of ‘digital graphic art’ are any less creative than his paintings, however, for they are but reproductions of the old artworks themselves. According to the curator of the show, talented art historian Pratiti Shah, “The originals were made by Jyoti Bhatt in his early days. Having grown in his style and language, the artist has now edited them again. These ‘reincarnations’ are a manifestation of his life journey as an artist.”

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A photograph of a mural made by the artist; The ‘Reincarnation’ series of Jyoti Bhatt, showing his reproduced works.

As a reviewer, this was my first visit to an art show in Vadodara. The city has always bestowed the art fraternity with luminary artists. Two of such artists – Nilima Sheikh and Padma Bhushan recipient Ghulam Mohammed Sheikh – were present during the inauguration of this show. What fascinated me the most was the extent to which I observed there to be a real passion amongst the people for collecting art. I could see eager connoisseurs roaming in the gallery, with fact sheets in tow, to know which artworks can still be bought. Bhatt’s artworks are clearly hugely in demand. I shared my curiosity over this with entrepreneur and gallerist of Gallery ARK Atul Dalmia, and asked how it is that Vadodara has come to be so much in love with Jyoti Bhatt. He shared, “Though the artist has been living here since the past 68 years, there have only been three instances when he has had solo shows. The people of Vadodara are not just here to admire him, but also the art itself. The city is truly the cultural capital of Gujarat.”

Arc Gallery
An onlooker takes delight in the show

The newly opened Gallery ARK of Vadodara is redefining the way people experience contemporary art. The edifice, designed by architect Aniket Bhagwat, looks like a sketchbook onto which artist Walter D’souza– using concrete, boulders and wire mesh –has created life-size ‘sketches’. This combination of spectacular architecture and magnificent art can be heartily experienced by all till April 6, 2018, every day from 4PM to 7PM (except Sundays).

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The oldest artworks of Jyoti Bhatt; The Gallery

Photographs : Himanshu Nainani

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