Untitled

Gaitonde has stood like a rock in the sea of fashion. His achievement is as real as it is historical. (D. Nadkarni, Gaitonde, Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi, 1983, unpaginated)

Beginning his artistic career at the Sir J. J. School of Art in 1943, Vasudeo S. Gaitonde mastered the relationship between linear form, light and color in a deceptively simple, yet highly sophisticated manner. Best described by Richard Bartholomew in 1959 as "a quiet man and a painter of the quiet reaches of the imagination" (D. Nadkarni, Gaitonde, Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi, 1983, unpaginated), Gaitonde was uncomprimising in his belief that art, the process and the final product, is an expression of the inner self.

In 1964 on a Rockefeller Fellowship in New York, exposure to the techniques and practices of Abstract Expressionist artists inspired Gaitonde to begin using a roller and a pallet knife. During the 1960s in New York, Gaitonde also experienced the rise of Conceptual Art, of which Sol LeWitt and Joseph Kosuth were proponents. This was a philosophy which, counter to Abstract Expressionism, championed the metaphysical concept in the artist's own mind as art. The physical art produced became the final manifestation of a realized innate idea from within the artist's consciousness. As Gaitonde describes, "A painting always exists within you, even before you actually start to paint. You just have to make yourself the perfect machine to express what is already there." (D. Nadkarni, Gaitonde, Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi, 1983, unpaginated)

The painting offered here from 1986, both formally and stylistically is an amalgamation of the abstract, minimalist and conceptual influences on Gaitonde's psyche. The vivid palette radiates with a visceral heat and intensity. Quite different from his more melancholic and subdued paintings, the flame-hued composition blazes with light and energy, power and wisdom. Amidst veils of scarlet and golden yellow paint, forms emerge across the canvas creating a beautiful rhythm, like fragments of calligraphy and context.

Through sensitive arrangement of color, Gaitonde articulates an astonishing range of emotions. He scrupulously manipulates and mixes different mediums on the canvas, coordinating spontaneous reactions with such precision that they seem to deny the notion of accidental elements. His multilayered paintings, filled with complexity are in essence an experimentation with the genre of painting itself. This painting straddles the duality between density and weightlessness and between form and formlessness producing tension between the translucent surface and almost primordial background.

Less reductive than his earlier canvases, Gaitonde's paintings from the 1980s onward hover between abstraction and representation. Throughout his career, Gaitonde tested the limits of his aesthetic powers, each time coming up with provocative and unique solutions. Painting was the perfect exercise for his highly intuitive and intellectual mind. "I'm still learning about painting, because I believe that the process is constant. Painting is a struggle -- you have to enquire, you have to have a thinking mind." (M. Menezes, 'The Meditative Brushstroke', Art India, Vol III, Issue III, p. 69)

Gaitonde's paintings are not simply material objects, they are sensory experiences that fully engage the viewer with their spellbinding power and magic.

Signature: signed and dated 'V.S. GAITONDE 1986'; further signed in Hindi and dated '86' (on the reverse)

U. Bickelmann-Aldinger, "Man by Nature is an Artist", in: M. Mann (ed.), Santiniketan-Hellerau: Universalist Education in the Pedagogic Province (International conference held at Humbolt University Berlin, 7-9 October 2011), Heidelberg, forthcoming (illustrated)

PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF URSULA BICKELMANN

Pundole Gallery, Mumbai

Ursula Bickelmann-Aldinger is an art historian and pioneer in the history of Indian contemporary art. Her publication Artists Today: East-West Visual Encounter published by Marg in 1987 in collaboration with the poet Nissim Ezekiel is a seminal work for the field. Further publications include studies on 20th century Indian art (2000), as well as studies of leading Western modernists such as Constantin Brancusi and Wolfgang Laib and their relationship to India, all published by Indo-Asiatische Zeitschrift. This work by Gaitonde was acquired during her stay in India from 1985-89.

About V. S. Gaitonde