In silence, there is conversation.
This is what comes through in this retrospective of Vasudev Santu Gaitonde presented by The Jehangir Nicholson Art Foundation and the Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya in collaboration with the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research at the Jehangir Nicholson Gallery in Mumbai.
For the first time this exhibition brings together the works from two iconic collections in the city that were put together from the early 1950s.
Fourteen more works from the Jehangir Nicholson collection reflect the collector's great admiration for Gaitonde’s oeuvre and the TIFR collection that came into being through the great foresight of the institute's director Dr Homi Bhabha.
In addition one sees works from the Pundole Gallery that had a relationship with the artist from his early days till his death in 2001.
There is a profound silence as one enters the gallery punctuated by silent whispers from the art fraternity. Silence has been Gaitonde's constant companion. His paintings here are silent sentinels of his life. He shunned the limelight. Even when he was conferred with the Padma Shri, his response was muted. While the media and art world went gaga over his award, he shooed away all media from his home, much to the disappointment of his family.
He preferred calling his work non objective, maintaining that "there is no such thing as abstract art". His paintings are known for their spiritual quality and meditative silence. The large surfaces of layered paint possess an inherent quality of light. The textural structure along with the interplay of colour is the main aspect of his paintings.
For Gaitonde, the final canvas was less exciting than the process of getting there. He worked with different mediums and used a roller and palette knives to create layered textures.
Senior painter Deepak Shinde speaking exclusively to FPJ says, "The present show of my legendary guru V S Gaitonde is a good opportunity for the younger generation in particular to witness an evolution of art and artist. From the early influence of Palsikar and Paul Klee, to contemplation at the Seas of Mumbai, later within the confines of Barsaati in Delhi, Gaitonde has carved out a niche for himself in Indian art.
I am the true witness to analyse the life of my mentor. Now everyone is awed because of commercial success. Gaitonde and Tyeb were the Indian artists who never compromised their art for fame or money. This show will definitely be a true inspiration for artists like me."
Three additional works from the Darashaw Collection and the Glenbarra art museum complete the picture and provide visitors the chance to view the entire range of his works.
Jesal Thacker, who conceptualised the brilliant biography Sonata of Solitude, says in her book, "Gaitonde was to become one of the masters of abstraction whose abiding theory seems to be: the simpler the art, the more elaborate the rationale. There is always a story behind each of his works. As much as I was fascinated by his paintings, I was equally curious about the stories behind them, beyond them. But most intriguing for me were the personal motives that drove Gaitonde towards his abstraction."
The last years of his life after his illness were the loneliest. Generally he was shunned by the art world, only to be 'resurrected' commercially years after his death by art collectors, media, auction houses, et al. There is not a single auction or collection today that does not proudly display his works, sometimes repeats, that have been sold and resold for big bucks. His work today ranks among the all time greats like Tyeb Mehta, M F Husain and F N Souza with him leading the pack price wise.
Now if only all the accolades and adulation and the crazy frenzy to collect his works were made available to him during his lifetime, he would have passed on a happier man. The fastest appreciating artist in India today, no auction is complete without a Gaitonde!
"Gaitonde nahi hai toh maza nahi aata auction mein, yaar," said a prominent art collector from South Mumbai. Rest in peace sir, your legacy brings solace to the young troubled mind and your Sonata will always be played!
Where: Jehangir Nicholson Art Foundation,CSMVS, Kala Ghoda, Mumbai
When: Ongoing till December 25.