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  • Anju Dodiya Solo At Lukshmi Vilas Palace, Baroda
  • A View From The Balcony
  • Anju Dodiya's Painting
  • Anju Dodiya's Work
  • Wajid Ali By Anju Dodiya
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Emotions Matter, Not Gender

Gitanjali Dang visits Throne of Frost, a grand solo show of Anju Dodiya at Bodhi Art Gallery, Mumbai and converses with the artist to capture the essence of her new set of works.


The design/layout of Anju Dodiya’s exhibition Throne of Frost,with many its cul-de-sacs and entrances is labyrinthine. And though the labyrinth is often evocative of a universe that is unrelentingly hyperbolic, let the inaugural remark not be misunderstood. Dodiya’s works never pander to the nature of exaggeration. They are on the contrary quietly confluencial. And this attribute of inclusiveness is freshly represented in Dodiya’s Throne of Frost, where she combines tapestries with large-scale watercolours.

After visiting the grand Darbar Hall at the Lukshmi Villas Palace, Baroda, the exhibition is now on display at Bodhi Art in Mumbai, till May 31. But how does this critical shift in address, from a palace to a gallery, affect a body of work, which also happens to be the artist’s first site-specific project? Dodiya explains, “The works visited a context, which in this case happened to be the palace and now they are here. It’s all a game.”

Throne of Frost does not draw on the history of the palace. Instead it inhales the aura of riddles, such as suspicion, grandeur, fallibility, death and melancholy, which pervade both the grand and the commonplace in equal measure. Dodiya uses the dimensions of the Darbar Hall to navigate her passage across artistic and emotional riddles, not necessarily in that order, that continue to mesmerise/infuriate her. The hall is not a conceptual stunt. It is in fact, an amplification of the problems artists encounter, each time they are confronted by a blank canvas.

“We were at the palace to see Raja Ravi Varma’s work and then it was suggested that I show my mattress paintings there. And that was how I first got the Darbar Hall in my hands. It was an extremely challenging experience but it was also an honour,” the artist elucidates.


The use of blackly stoic two-sided stands, which framed the paintings and the tapestries, in the absence of wall space in the Darbar Hall and the innumerable shards of mirrors that carpeted the floor and reflected the paintings variously, were Dodiya’s way of tackling “formal problems”.

“When I was working on the project I had Rilke’s words ringing in my ears, ‘Shattered beings are best reflected in bits and pieces’,” remembers Dodiya. With this recollection, in addition to throwing light on her decision to have broken mirrors reflect her watercolours, Dodiya also brings to mind the manner in which the great poet, Rilke steered his poetic process, which in turn was informed by Paul Cézanne fervour for observation.

Cézanne would stare at his subjects for long hours, as though he was occasioning a transformation. He would let his piercing vision flag only when he had succeeded in wresting the subject’s primordial essence. Rilke impressed by this almost Shamanic ritual followed it assiduously, when conceptualising his poems. 

With a focus similar in intensity to that of her predecessors, Dodiya dwells on painterly problems, until the time she has arrived at a cogent painting. From this almost hermetic preoccupation, Dodiya swings to the other end of the spectrum when she decides on lingering on sensorial experiences, such as browsing through Cartier catalogues and teasing out of their glossy pages precisely what she needs.

She speaks with candour about the elegant presence of headgear in her paintings when she says, “The elaborate headdress in the painting Wajid Ali is actually from Alexander McQueen’s 2004 fall/winter collection. When I first started painting, I suffered from severe migraines so I used to tie a cloth around my head to placate the pain.”

Soon the cloth around her head was bequeathed to the heads of the protagonists of her paintings. And as this transition occurred, the cloth that swaddled the artist’s head transformed into elaborate headgear. And this graceful metamorphosis can be witnessed in works such as the Untitled work where diving rods surround the protagonist in a black rush. 


The banal maintained its pact with postmodernity and trespassed into the measured vocabulary of Throne of Frost by way of insignia found on characterless hotel towels. The moment Dodiya accepted them into the world of her tapestries she transformed the banality of the original into “parallel narratives that offered clues to the paintings”

Discussing the insignia and the tapestries, Dodiya says, “When the exhibition was still in its nascent stage I joked about the paintings seeming as though they were partaking of an elaborate darbar ritual. Around that time I took note of the insignia found on hotel towels. Though, my initial thought was that if the paintings were accompanied by their own insignia, the experience would be made richer, I was sceptical. But then Atul (Dodiya) and a few other friends thought I should give it a try and I did.”


When Dodiya states matter-of-factly, “I am a painter (and for me) every stain matters,” our thoughts are immediately guided to the sooty black with which she delineates her protagonists. Often, Dodiya colludes with the same black to blight the texture of smoothness, to trip the flow of grandiosity and to create a situation of beautiful ruin. “I take pleasure in colour and in the beauty of the watercolour. But with the black of the charcoal I am hoping in someway to disrupt that very same beauty,” she says of her fascination with dissolution.

The allure of Dodiya’s works can in part be attributed to the fact that she, unlike her many contemporaries, decided against planting and reaping a plethora of topical ‘concerns’. Choosing instead to investigate the formal problems of her creative enterprise, in a manner that is comparable to David Hockney’s dedicatedness to reconciling an actively three-dimensional world to the stringent two-dimensionality of the canvas.

Curiously Dodiya’s engagement with the self is often mistakenly perceived, as something a woman artist would dwell on. She asserts, “When I am an artist, I am not a woman. I often find myself hitting my fists on the table and saying this. Emotion and the state of mind interest me most, not gender.



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